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Among the many ancient cities in England which interest the 
traveller, and delight the antiquary, few, if any, can surpass Chester. Its 
walls, its bridges, its ruined priory, its many churches, its old houses, 
its almost unique " rows," all arrest and repay attention. The cathedral, 
though not one of the largest or most magnificent, recalls many names 
which deserve to be remembered. The name of Matthew 

Henry sheds lustre on the city in which he spent fifteen years of his 
fruitful ministry ; and a monument has been most properly erected to 
his honour in one of the public thoroughfares. Methodists, too, equally 
with Churchmen and Dissenters, have reason to regard Chester with 
interest, and associate with it some of the most blessed names in their 
briefer history. By John Wesley made the head of a Circuit 

which reached from Warrington to Shrewsbury, it has the unique 
distinction of being the only Circuit which John Fletcher was ever 
appointed to superintend, with his curate and two other preachers to 
assist him. Probably no other Circuit in the Connexion has produced 
four preachers who have filled the chair of the Conference. But from 
Chester came Richard Reece, and John Gaulter, and the late Rev. John 
Bowers ; and a still greater orator than either, if not the most effective 
of all who have been raised up among us, Samuel Bradburn. — (George 
Osbom, D.D. ; Mag., April, i8yo.) 

Rev. Samuel Bradburn. Rev. Richard Reece. 

Rev. John Bovvers. 

Rev. John Gaulter. 

earlp DKtDoaistn 

In ana around CiK$t£T* 



Francis Fletcher Bretherton, b.a. cumd.) 

With a Preface by 


(Late Governor of Didsbury College.) 

Printed and Published for the Author by 


Eastgate Row, Chester. 


Our Church's heroes are its early evangelists. The highest 
enthusiasm of old and young is kindled by the story of their travels and 
labours — how that in afflctions, in imprisonments, in necessities, in 
tumuks, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, in pureness, in knowledge, 
in long suffering, in the Holy Ghost, in love unfeigned, in the word of 
truth, in the power of God, they preached the word, and laid broad and 
deep the foundations of our Church. Many with pardonable pride trace 
their own descent from the grand old saints of former days, and lovingly 
relate how, through their prayer, or self sacrificing labour, or hospitality, 
or wit, Methodism was established in their own neighbourhood. But 
They who on glorious ancestry enlarge 
Produce their debt instead of their discharge. 
We confess that we are the sons of them who gave their substance and 
life that England might be saved ; therefore let us also, seeing that we 
are compassed about with so great a crowd of witnesses, lay aside every 
weight. — (The Annual Address of the Conference of 1901 to the Method- 
ist Societies in the Connexion established by the late Rev. John 
Wesley, M.A.J 


*1THE History of Methodism is not receiving less attentiori 
in our time than it formerly did. To the histories 
already issued, a much larger one than a?iy of them has 
just been added, the product of the pe?i of Dr. f. Fletcher 
Hurst, a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This 
work, which is published in New York, comprises ?io less 
than ten large volumes ; the first three dealing with British 
Methodism, the others with Methodism i?i America a?id in 
its world wide extension. Great i?iterest attaches to these 
extensive surveys : but a number of smaller works, more 
limited i?i their range, and far more mimite in their 
researches, have been, and are still being, given to the public. 
These are records of Methodism within the limits of indi- 
vidual ci?'cuits. A list of more tha?i 150 such local histories 
was published in the "Proceedings of the Wesley Historical 
Society for March, 1897." These, of course, vary greatly 
iii their relative ?nerits. "Early Methodism in a?id around 
Chester," which Mr. Bretherton has prepared with much 
care arid patience, is an addition to the best of them. 

The original part of this work was written many 
years ago by the Reverend, now the venerable, Benjamin 
Smith. The manuscript lay for a long time unpublished. 
It afterwards passed into the hands of Mr. R. Thursfield 
Smith, f .P., of Whitchurch, who introduced it to ?ny notice. 


The value of the work was at once appare7it to me, but, as 
much additional matter had been accumulated since its 
completion, and as the means of elucidating many obscure 
periods of the story had been discovered, it was thought 
desirable to revise the whole. This I began to do, but the 
pressure of other work compelled me to lay it aside. About 
this time Mr. Bretherton was appointed to the Chester 
Circuit. His attention was soon arrested by the records of 
the planting of Methodism in the city and neighbourhood, 
and his interest in them deepened as his i?iquiries continued. 
The opportune moment for the completion of Mr. Smith's 
work seemed to have arrived, a?id Mr. Bretherton was 
requested to undertake it. I have had the opportunity of 
watching Mr. Bretherton 's work from its inception, and 
the pleasure of re?idering him such aid as it was in my 
Power to give. He has been favomed with the constant 
help of that most successful collector of Wesleya?ia, Mr. 
Ihursjield Smith, who has both laid his large store of 
books a?id manuscripts tmder tribute, and by his wide 
knowledge and eficie?it counsel, has aided in securing for 
the work the completeness that distinguishes it. 

Many of the historians of local Methodism have 
been depende7it mainly upon floating traditions and the 
recollectio?is of elderly people, for what additions could be 
made to the more general records. Mr. B%etherton, while 
availing himself of so much of this kind of help as was 
within his reach, has avoided dependence upon it, making 
diligent quest for original documents, and testing accepted 
authorities. He has ifitroduced fresh and interesting 
matter relating to Wesley himself and has searched the 
storehouse of the Magazines, and many comparatively rare 
papers and pamphlets, with many parts of the wide field 
of Methodist biography. 


A specially interesti?ig feature of this volume is to be 
found in the attention give?i to the early period of Methodist 
histoty, the bulk of the work relating to events which 
transpired before the year 1800. This was the heroic age 
of Methodism, during which its essential pri?iciples fou?id 
their most vivid illustratioji, — a period that deserves the 
thoughtful study of the Methodists of to-day. I earnestly 
hope Mr. B ret her 1 071' s volume will pro?note that study. 
Without hesitation, I give my hearty commendation to this 
work, trusting it may meet with a warm reception, not 
only in the neighbourhood of Chester itself but i7i all parts 
of the country. 



February, igoj. 


The genesis of this work has been so fully- 
explained by Mr. Green, that only a few words on the 
point are necessary from me. The materials from 
various sources so increased upon my hands, that I 
found it necessary to rearrange and rewrite the whole 
of the original manuscript. 

The work of Rev. B. Smith was remarkably 
accurate, and without the foundation he laid, this 
volume would never have been undertaken. At the 
same time, I should say that all the authorities he used 
have been worked over anew, and there is hardly a 
statement in the book made without independent 

It is impossible to say here how much of this 
volume had a place in the Rev. B. Smith's manuscript : 
but it may be said briefly that the references to books 
and pamphlets scattered up and down the volume have 
all been introduced by myself, and in most cases 
represent material not known to him ; that Chapters 
VII. and VIII. are almost entirely new; that I have 
bestowed a great deal of labour upon the New Con- 
nexion controversy, in Chapter V ; upon the family 
histories in Chapter VI. ; and upon the Appendices. 
The selection of the illustrations was made by me. 


For these reasons I am told by those who entrusted 
me with this task, that I am fully justified in calling 
myself the author of the book. Mr. Thursfield Smith's 
words at the outset were very definite on this point. — 

You and you only must carry this work out. If 
you think well, Rev. B. Smith's name and mine may 
be me?itio?ied in the preface. (22/4/99). 
When other work had turned me aside from this 
history for six months, he wrote again : — 

/ have been a little anxious abotit the Chester 
History. Time rolls on. If the work is not carried 
through by you ?iow, I fear it will 7iever be done. I 
am 7J, and I thi?ik no one else can give you such help 
as I ca?i, having for years given so much attention to 
the subject. I mtist say that I heartily approve of 
your pla?is. Of course the work must be yozirs. The 
few words relating to Rev. Be?ijamin Smith and 
myself a?-e all that is desirable or necessary. In fact 
Mr. B. Smith has left the matter absolutely in my 
hands. You must be the " Master-builder. (24/1/00). 
No absolutely consistent system of arrangement 
has been practicable, owing to the unequal nature of 
the materials. The main scheme has been determined 
by the Methodist itinerancy ; and I have sought to 
group everything around the names of the various 
preachers appointed to the Circuit year by year. For 
this purpose their names are in dark type the first 
time they respectively occur. Perhaps non-Methodist 
readers should be warned that the Methodist year begins 
in September and not January. As Wesley's visits to 
Chester took place usually in the spring, a little 
confusion may arise in places unless this be borne 
in mind. 

In the references to other Churches which have 
been inevitable, I have endeavoured to avoid anything 
that could give offence to Anglicans or Dissenters, or 
to members of sister Methodist Churches. 

I have refrained from moralizing ; but many a 
moral has presented itself to my mind, and I am sure 
that there is much in these records at once to encourage 
and rebuke the successors of the early Methodists. 

The work has been a labour of love, and I now 
send it forth in the hope that it may be of some service, 
especially to my many friends in and around Chester. 

I take this opportunity of expressing my indebted- 
ness to my colleague, the Rev. Thomas Moscrop, for 
reading the proofs ; to the Rev. John Telford ; and to 
many correspondents whose courtesy I have highly 


Little Sutton, 
March, igoj. 



1 Portraits of the Revs. John Bowers, John Gaulter, 

Richard Reece, and Samuel Bradburn 

2 Composite Picture of the Moat House Farm at Alpraham, 

with Richard Cawley's Class Ticket, Old Book 
Bunbury Church, and the inscription under the 
Pear Tree . . . . 

3 A Letter from John Wesley to Jonathan Pritchard 

4 Do. do. do ? 

5 A Summary of the Circuit in 1788 in the handwriting 

Andrew Blair .. 

6 The Old Chapel at Neston 

*7 Portrait of Alderman Henry Bowers 

8 An Old Sunday School Hymn Sheet for 1799 

9 Exterior of St. John Street Chapel . . 
10 Interior of St. John Street Chapel. . 

*n Portrait of Mr. David Jackson 
12 The first page of the Circuit Stewards' Book, 1812 

* From the Oil Paintings in the Vestry of St. John Strut Chapel 




) i 














1 ) 






With the following exceptions the plates were all made from photographs 
specially taken for me by Mr. J. F. Bland, of New Ferry. No. 12 was photographed 
by Mr. J. F. Holaway, of Chester. 

The photographs of the farm at Alpraham, and of the book at Bunbury 
were executed by Mr. Harry Jones, of Liverpool, and kindly procured forme by 
Mr. William Littler, of Tarporley; Mr. J. G. Wright, of Wolverhampton, kindly 
gave me a photograph of the class ticket which he made from the original which 
he acquired from the lata Mrs. Francis Butt. 

The portraits of the four ministers of Chester origin who attained to the 
Presidency of the Wesleyan Conference are taken from the Methodist Magazine. 

Magazine means the periodical, first called by Wesley the 
Arminian Magazine, but now for a long time the Wesleyan Methodist 
Magazine. It has appeared monthly from 1778 till the present day. 

The Edition of Wesley's Journal quoted is that of 1809 — 13, in 
17 volumes. 

The capital letters appearing in brackets at certain places refer to 
the Notes printed on pp. 269 — 272. 


Chapter I.— 1744 onwards. Early days at Bunbury 
and Aloraham. on. 1=25. 

and Alpraham, pp. 1=25. 

A religious Society at Bunbury Church— The Cawley family of 
Moat^House Farm — Visits of John Wesley, John Bennet, C. Hopper — 
" Pear Tree " Preachers— The Brothers Sim — Mr. Samuel Smith — The 
Gardner family — Mr. S. Hitchen — Mr. J, S. Hitchen— William 
Darney's verses — Rev. William Jackson. 

Chapter II. — 1747=1764. Introduction of Methodism 
into the City of Chester, pp. 26-57. 

John Bennet — Preaching at Huntington Hall and at Richard 
Jones' house in Love Lane — Barn Chapel in St. Martin's Ash — 
Wesley's first visit to Chester — Subsequent riot — Chapel destroyed — 
Another visit — A good Mayor — A friendly Vicar — Chester included in 
the "Manchester Round" — Mr. Jonathan Pritchard — Interesting 
Wesley letters — The early Preachers — Thomas Walsh and George 
Whitefield evangelize Chester — Further Wesley visits — He preaches 
at Mold, Tattenhall and Paikgate. 

Chapter III.— 1764 = 1775. The Octagon Chapel: its 
erection and early years, pp. 58-115. 

The Chapel and site fully described — John Hampson opens it — 
The first Trustees — Mr. Thomas Bennett— Mr. George Lowe — The 
heroine of early Methodism in Neston — Chester included in the Salop 
Circuit, 1765 ; in the Cheshire Circuit, 1766 — Mr. Francis Gilbert 
entertains Wesley in Chester — The Gilbert family of Antigua — Wesley 
publishes Mary Gilbert's Journal — Thomas Olivers — Thomas Taylor — 
Samuel Bardsley — Conversion of Samuel Bradburn, the " Methodist 
Demosthenes" — The Cheshire North Circuit formed, 1770 — The Chester 
Circuit formed, 1771. 


Chapter IV- — 1776=1787. Extension within the City. 
Commonhall Street Preaching Room, pp. 

The previous and later history of the Room — (Matthew Henry's 
Chapel — The Queen Street Congregational Church — Jonathan Wilcoxen, 
etc.) — Several Wesley visits — Robert Roberts — John Murlin — The Rev. 
John Fletcher and the Rev. Melville Home — Richard Rodda — John 
Gaulter and Richard Reece, future Presidents, begin to preach. 

Chapter V- — 1788=1797, The later visits and death 
of John Wesley. The formation of the 
Methodist New Connexion, pp. 140=174. 

Particulars of the veteran's work in Chester — George Lowe — 
Thomas Brisco — The pioneer work of Miles Martindale in the 
Wirral — Mr. John Sellers — Death of John Wesley — Connexional 
unrest — Local controversies — Erection of Trinity Lane Chapel, 1794 — 
Financial details — It becomes an Independent Methodist Chapel, and 
in 1797 joins the New Connexion then formed — Extracts from contem- 
porary publications.— Mr. James Parry. 

Chapter VI.— 1798=1811. The Octagon Chapel: last 
years, pp. 175=224. 

George Morley — The North Wales Mission — Owen Davies— John 
Hughes— John Bryan — Edward Jones (Bathafarn) — Formation of the 
Wrexham and Whitchurch Circuit — Extension at Mouldsworth and 
Kingsley — Mr. Joseph Janion — Alexander Suter — Francis West — The 
Neston Mission. 

Some family histories and notable conversions. 

The Williams family of Rackery, descendants and connections — 
Mr. Ambrose Williams — William Moulton (grandfather of the late 
Dr. W F. Moulton of Cambridge) — Mr. Collin Robinson — Mr. George 

Walker, the earlier — Alderman Henry Bowers — Kev. John Bowers 

Miss Sarah Broster — Classical academies — Dr. Birchenall — The Lowe 
family — Mr. Howie, and others. 

The Post=Methodist history of the Octagon Chapel, 
demolished 1864. 

The Rev. Philip Oliver's Trustees, etc. 


Chapter VII. — The commencement of Methodist 
Sunday and Day School work in Chester, 
pp. 225=242. 

The Methodists early in the field — Commencement at the 
Octagon, 1782 — George Lowe — Thomas Bennett — Letter from John 
Wesley to Richard Rodda (1787) — Extracts from the public papers — The 
date discussed — Early accounts — Summary of events down to 1830 — 
Library records — The Chester Wesleyan Day School. 

Chapter VIII. — 1810 onwards. Erection of St. John 
Street Chapel, pp. 243=268. 

Full details of early negotiations — The site described — Building 
accounts— Opening services — Remarkable ministry of John Braithwaite — 
The first Trustees — The later Trustees — Mr. Matthew Harrison— Later 
finance— Mr. Charles Simpson— Mr. David Jackson. 

Notes, pp. 269=272. 
Appendices, pp. 273=296. 

I. — Schedules of membership, with potes. 
II. — The Circuit Steward's Account Book. 
III. — Subscriptions to Connexional efforts. 
IV. — Subscriptions to St. John Street Chapel. 
V. — Welsh Wesleyan Methodism in Chester. 
VI. — Erection of City Road Chapel. 


€arip Daps at Btmfcurp ana HlflraDam, 
1744 Onwards. 

THE first germ of Methodism in the neighbourhood 
of Chester is to be discerned in a little company 
assembling from time to time in the vestry of Bunbury 
Church for the same purposes of religious conversation 
and Bible study as those which had brought together, 
a few years previously, the first Methodists, the " Godly 
Club," within the University of Oxford. In the early 
part of the eighteenth century there were, in some parts 
of the country, religious awakenings which prepared 
the way for the wider work of the Evangelical Revival. 
This was the case in England, especially in the 
Metropolis and wherever Dr. Woodward's societies took 
root ; in Scotland, at Kilsyth and Cambuslang ; in 
Wales, under the preaching of Howell Harris. At 
Betley, near Nantwich, there was a society similar to 
that at Bunbury, associated with the name of Richard 
Moss, afterwards one of Wesley's preachers ; and John 
Bennet speaks of a religious society " kept" in Chester. 
The gathering in the vestry met with episcopal approval. 
Janion, in a little volume on Cheshire Methodism which 

has furnished much help for this and later chapters, 

says : — 

I have heard my brother-in-law, Mr. Gardner, say, 

that the Bishop of Chester was so much pleased with the 
account of this society at Bunbury, that, in order to 
encourage them in their laudable endeavours, he pre- 
sented them with a copy of BurkitVs Notes on the New 
Testament. (A) 
When the society left the vestry for other places of 
meeting the book was chained up in the Church. It is 
there to this day, protected of late years by a grating. 
In 1744, when the meeting had been held for some time, 
the Clergyman began to regard it with some suspicion, 
and to fear that it would lead to a separation from the 
establishment. At length, through his determined 
opposition, it was removed to a room at Alpraham, and 
found a valiant supporter in Mr. Richard Cawley. He 
was born in 1716, and was the son of a Baptist gentleman, 
Mr. Stephen Cawley, who was, as appears from some 
family papers, High Constable. Mr. Richard Cawley, a 
man of character and weight, was well-fitted to defend 
the little evangelical cause and in due time to invite 
and entertain the Methodist preachers. In the earlier 
part of 1745, several letters were written by this gentle- 
man to the Vicar. In these he gives an account of his 
conversion, justifies his connexion with the meetings at 
Alpraham, and evinces throughout a sound mind and 
devout spirit. 

The character of Mr. Richard Cawley is dwelt upon 
with loving fulness in the early records. A zealous 
guardian of the intellectual and moral welfare of his 
household, no servant in his employ was ever allowed 
to remain ignorant of reading, an accomplishment much 

rarer then than now. It is said that he even reversed 
the usual order of things and paid boys to allow him to 
teach them their letters. As an interesting testimony 
to the respect he inspired it is recorded that the unen- 
lightened clergyman sometimes tried to force an 
evangelical strain into his discourses to please this 
honoured hearer. Mr. Cawley had a set of rules printed 
for exhibition in his house and in those of his friends. 
How far these rules owe their form to John Wesley it 
is difficult to determine ; but they breathe the spirit of 
early Methodist morality so indisputably that they are 
here transcribed at length. 

WE and our House will serve the LORD. For GOD 
IS LOVE. THEREFORE our Earnest Request is, THAT 
every one who comes here will conform to our few RULES, 
i. We have no time given to throw away, but to 
improve for Eternity ; therefore we can join in no con- 
versation that is unprofitable, but only in that which is 
good to the use of edifying, ministering grace to the 
Hearers. Therefore 

2. WE have nothing to say to the News of the 
Town, and of the Business of others : But we desire to 
hear of Things pertaining to the Kingdom of GOD. 

3. Neither have we anything to say to the misconduct 
of others ; therefore, let not the fault of an absent person 
be mentioned, unless absolute necessity require it, and 
then let it be with the greatest Tenderness, without 
dwelling upon it. May GOD preserve us from a 
censorious and criticising Spirit, so contrary to that of 

4. WE offer the right hand of fellowship to every one 
that cometh in the name of the LORD : But we receive 
not any to a doubtful disputation : But whosoever loveth 
the LORD JESUS in Sincerity, the same is our 
BROTHER, and SISTER, and MOTHER; we cannot 
but remember that GOD is LOVE. 

5. We neither receive nor Pay Visits on the LORD'S 
DAY, for we and our House desire particularly on that 
Day to serve the LORD. 

6. WE do earnestly intreat every one to reprove us 
faithfully, whenever we deviate from any of these Rules, 
so shall we be as Guardian Angels to each other, and as a 
Holy mingled flame, ascend up before GOD. (Price One 

Prior to trie visit of Wesley, shortly to be recorded, 
much attention had been paid to the place by itinerant 
preachers in connexion with his organization, amongst 
them being John Bennet and John Nelson. Unhappily 
no details can be given of their work, but it is evident 
that by the influence of these and like-minded men the 
Society at Bunbury took on an increasingly Methodist 
tone, and was imbued with great respect for the leaders 
of the movement. 

The Rev. William Grimshaw, Vicar of Haworth, in 
Yorkshire, nearly as much a Methodist preacher as his 
fellow- clergyman Wesley, says in a long letter to 
Charles Wesley, dated August 20, 1747 : — 

Last week I struck out into Lancashire and Cheshire, 
Mr. Bennet bearing me company. We visited the 
Societies in Rochdale, Manchester and Holme in Lan- 
cashire, and Boothbank in Cheshire. At the same time 
we made a visit to Mr. Carmichael, a clergyman at 
Tarvin, near Chester. He says he received remission of 
sins last September; and, I believe, preaches the same 
truth to his people. 
Probably Alpraham was visited in the course of this 

The Providence which brought the great Apostle 
of Methodism to the succour of this little company 
at Alpraham is full of interest. About the time of 

which we write there resided near Alpraham the 
parents of a servant maid, called Ann Smith. She was 
in the service of a lady who spent most of her time in 
London, occasionally resorting for a change to Bath 
and similar places. Ann Smith was led to hear Wesley, 
whose open-air preaching was attracting great atten- 
tion, and was brought into the enjoyment of the great 
salvation. Mrs. Smith visited her daughter in London, 
and also heard the evangelists. On her return to 
Cheshire she told Mr. Cawley and others what she had 
heard, and informed him of the probable date of 
Wesley's next visit to the North of England. 

In one of this young woman's letters quoted by 
Everett, 1 she speaks of an earnest prayer that a place 
might be given her among God's people. Her sub- 
sequent marriage with Dr. Whitehead, the friend and 
biographer of Wesley, brought her the fulfilment of 
this desire. 

Early in the autumn of 1749 Mr. Richard Cawley 
wrote to John Wesley inviting him to Alpraham to 
help them in the things of God. Wesley arranged to 
visit Mr. Cawley, and to preach on October 12. Other 
calls, however, prevented the accomplishmeut of his 
purpose on that day. As the announcement had been 
duly made, Wesley sent a supply to preach and to 
announce that he himself would be there on October 
20th. Mr. Cawley wrote to him again immediately 
before that date to say that the Vicar of Acton would 
allow him to occupy the pulpit of his Church. 

Everett records Mr. Cawley's opinion of the 

preacher who supplied for Wesley : — 

The person thus sent preached in such an engaging 
manner, and with words so inviting, that I believe that 

1. Wesleyan Methodism i?i Maiichester, 1S27. 

most who heard him were ready to praise God on his 
account. I must confess I never saw persons so affected 
Everett thinks this was Edward Perronet, the brother 
of Charles Perronet and the son of the venerable 
Vincent Perronet, Vicar of Shoreham. Both brothers 
were itinerant preachers and laboured in union with 
Wesley for some years. Edward Perronet subsequently 
left the Connexion and resided as a dissenting preacher 
at Canterbury. 

It should be noted that it was the marriage which 
took place on October 3rd, 1749, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne 
between Grace Murray, whom Wesley regarded as his 
own affianced bride, and John Bennet, which caused 
the alteration in Wesley's plans. The whole subject is 
treated at length in the standard books, and does not 
call for more than a passing mention here. The later 
engagement was duly fulfilled and is recorded at some 
length in the Journals : — 

Friday, October 20th, 1749.— After preaching in the 
morning at Davyholme, and about ten at Boothbank, in 
the afternoon I rode on and between four and five came 
to Alpraham. A large congregation was waiting for me, 
whom I immediately called to seek God while He may be 
found. Many came again at five in the morning, and 
seemed just ready not only to repent, but also believe the 

Saturday, 21st. — By conversing with several here, I 
found we were not now among publicans and sinners, but 
among those who, a while ago, supposed they needed no 
repentance. Many of them had long been exercising 
themselves unto godliness, in much the same manner as 
we did at Oxford : but they were now thoroughly willing 
to renounce their own, and accept the righteousness which 
is of God by faith. 

A gentleman, who had several years before heard me 
preach at Bath, sent to invite me to dinner, I had three 
or four hours serious conversation with him. O who 
maketh me to differ? Every objection he made to the 
Christian system has passed through my mind also ; but 
God did not suffer them to rest there, or to remove me 
from the hope of the Gospel. 

I was not surprised when word was brought that the 
Vicar of Acton had not the courage to stand to his word: 
neither was I troubled. I love indeed to preach in a 
Church : but God can work wherever it pleaseth him. 

Sunday, 22nd. — I preached at seven in Richard 
Cawley's house ; and about one at Little Acton. 

Janion describes this interview more fully, and 
states that the gentleman referred to was Richard 
Davenport, Esq., of Calveley Hall. 

Mr. Davenport sent for Wesley to the Hall, together 
with Mr. Stephen Cawley and the Rev. Mr. Lowe, the 
clergyman of the Parish ; and desired them to give him 
an account of the New Birth or Regeneration. Mr. 
Lowe laid great stress on water-baptism ; but Wesley 
dwelled rather on the genuine marks and fruits of that 
great work of God in the soul, observing that it implied 
an entire change of heart, from nature to grace, from siu 
to holiness, and from the love of this world to the love of 
God. Mr. Davenport was much affected and said, 
Mr. Wesley, I understand you perfectly well, but I do not 
understand Mr. Lowe at all. He also pressed Mr. Wesley 
to accept a piece of gold of the value of (?) ,£36, and 
offered to send him to Mr. S. Cawley's house in his own 
carriage, both of which offers he respectfully declined. 

Mr. J. S. Hitchen, writing to Everett in 1827, said 
that the piece of gold was worth 36/-, and adds that 
Wesley was at last prevailed upon to accept it on the 
ground that it might help him in an emergency. He 


also stated that the Squite asked Wesley to promise to 
visit him upon his deathbed, and undertook in his turn 
to inform Mr. S. Cawley before anyone else, should a 
spiritual change take place in him. 

It is from this visit that the definite commencement 
of Methodism at Alpraham must be dated. Wesley, at 
the request of the people, promised to send a preacher 
for the next week. This was the first step towards 
establishing a regular Methodist ministry in the place. 

The visit of Wesley was soon followed up by one 
from Christopher Hopper, a well-known member of his 
band of itinerant helpers. These were required by 
Wesley to furnish him with a written account of their 
course and religious experience, upon being received 
into full connection with his work. Our public 
examination of candidates for Ordination is the 
outcome *of this practice. Many of the preachers also 
followed the example of their head in keeping full 
journals. The well-known six volumes of Lives of the 
Early Methodist Preachers were mainly compiled from 
materials thus provided by the itinerants themselves. 
On p. 200 of vol. 1 Hopper says : — 

The latter end of the year 1749 I left the Dales, and 
the dear children God had given me. I rode to the 
Smeals, where I parted with my dear wife and friends, 
with melting hearts and many tears. In those days we 
had no provision made for preachers' wives, no funds, 
no stewards. He that had a staff might take it, go with- 
out, or stay at home. I then set out for Bristol. I called 
at Chester, Durham, Stockton, Thirsk, and Knares- 
borough, and found the Lord in every place. [In the 
course of this journey he preached at Manchester "in a 
little garret by the riverside." From Manchester] I rode 

through Chester, and joined a Society at Alpraham, and 
another at Pool. It was an humbling time among the 
opulent farmers ; the murrain raging amongst their 
cattle. They buried them in the open fields. Their 
graves were a solemn scene. The hand of the Lord was 
on the land. I visited the suburbs of Chester. God 
began a good work then, which has increased and 
continued to this day. 

The labours of Christopher Hopper for a series of 
years were very extensive and successful. He formed 
some of the earliest societies in the North of England, 
visited Ireland several times, was the first Methodist 
preacher to go into North Britain, and travelled 
through a great number of Circuits in this country. 
There is a record of at least one further visit to Chester 
on his part, viz., July 26th, 1776. He passed away at 
the age of 80 on March 5th, 1802. 

The next Methodist preacher to visit Alpraham 
was the celebrated John Nelson, the Yorkshire stone- 
mason, one of the most valiant and worthy of the early 
evangelists. His visit also took place before the eventful 
year 1749 had come to an end. He seems to have been 
the first to preach in the open air at Alpraham. Both 
Wesley and Hopper had contented themselves, as 
previous itinerants had, with addressing the company 
that could be accommodated in the house of Mr. Richard 
Cawley's father, Mr. Stephen Cawley, of Moat House 
Farm. But with the growth of the work the numbers 
that came together were more than the house could 
hold. John Nelson boldly took his stand beneath a 
pear tree and addressed his hearers with his customary 
vigour. This place of preaching was often employed, 
and for a long time afterwards the Methodist preachers 


were known as " Pear Tree Preachers." The old tree 
weathered many a storm and stood in the garden of the 
house, which is about half a mile from Calveley Station, 
till the middle of the following century. At length 
however it was blown down. The Superintendent 
wrote to the landlord, and received the following 
reply : — 

Peckeorton Castle, 

February 6th, 1856. 
Dear and Rev. Sir, 

Until I received your letter I knew nothing whatever 

of the interesting associations connected with a farm of 

mine, called the Moat House, in Alpraham. Had I been 

aware that the Rev. John Wesley had once preached 

under a particular pear tree on my estate, I should have 

taken the greatest care of that Tree, and provided against 

its being blown down. I cannot say how sorry and 

annoyed I am to hear of the disaster that has befallen 

this tree. I quite approve of another being planted on 

trie same spot, and when I hear it is planted, I will have it 

surrounded and protected by a good fence. 

Believe me, 

Dear and Rev. Sir, 

Yours faithfully, 

The Rev. W. Jessop, 

Wesleyan Minister. 

The planting of a new tree was made the occasion 
of a great Methodist gathering at which 200 persons 
were present. The Rev. Francis A. West gave an 
address. The Clergyman, Rev. W B. Garnett, said, 
in the course of an address, that on the occasion of 
his visit in 1751 Wesley preached at the forge opposite 
Bunbury Church, and an attempt was made by some 
of the people to drown the preacher's voice by ringing 

■-- * 

(i The Moat House Farm, Alpraham, shewing the celebrated Pear Tree 
at the the right hand side. 

b. Richard Cawley's Class-Ticket, 1769. 

c. Burkitt's Commentary on the New Testament, now chained in 

Bunbury Church, 
if. The Inscription under the Tree. 


the Church bells. The worthy Clergyman added that 
Wesley would receive a very different reception if he 
were able to visit the Parish in those days. A stone 
slab was set up under the new tree bearing the 
following inscription : — 

In the year 1749 the Rev. John Wesley first preached 
in the adjoining farm house : in the autumn of the same 
year John Nelson preached under a pear tree which stood 
on this spot ; that one having perished, the present one 
was planted 4th March, 1856, by the kind permission of 
John Tollemache, Esq., M.P., to commemorate the intro- 
duction of Methodism into Cheshire. 

Preaching in the open air aroused great opposition, 
especially on the part of the rougher elements of the 
neighbourhood. A plan of campaign was organised, 
twenty-five shillings collected for the purpose of 
supplying the rioters with liquor, and a person named 
Thomas L,loyd was engaged to lead the mob. As they 
approached the scene of action some of them felt a 
little uneasy, and endeavoured to obtain the consent of 
Mr. Davenport, of Calveley Hall, which was not far off. 
Now Mr. Davenport, though by no means a Methodist 
convert, had, as already described, too much light and 
too much knowledge of the Methodists to countenance 
this riotous attempt to expel them from the parish. He 
replied to the champion of the forces of disorder : — 

No, Thomas, by no means; lest they should be in 
the right, and we should be in the wrong. I would not 
have them persecuted for .£100, merely on the possibility 
of their being right. 

When this speech was reported to the crowd it soon 


Mr. Richard Cawley, always active in the defence 
of religious liberty, addressed a lengthy letter to the 
Vicar and Churchwardens about this time. He sums 
up in the following trenchant manner : — 

i. Did you endeavour to prevent a swearing, drinking, 
and unintelligible minister from preaching ? 

2. Are neither of you nor any of your families guilty 
of these and other vices, and would you rather be miser- 
able yourselves and have them eternally miserable, than 
be called to repentance by one of these laymen ? 

3. If we are wrong, please to inform us in that which 
is better, but do not imagine you can do it by clubs or 
staves. Why did the members of the Bunbury congrega- 
tion not send a more worthy or more honourable 
ambassador than they did ? Gentlemen, did you really 
intend to please and glorify God, by sending such a 
character to reform us ? If so, why did you first equip 
him for Hell ? O, consider the dreadful threatening 
denounced against those who do evil, that good may 
come. Remember and tremble, for their damnation is 
just. We are willing to hear Scripture or Reason, but 
are unwilling to listen to a person devoid of both, nor 
dare we take such a guide to Heaven, lest he should lead 
direct to destruction. 

Hopper's statement that at Alpraham and Pool he 
"joined a society," means that he united the little 
companies of believers assembling at these places to the 
already extensive Methodist organization. It would 
seem that Hopper took down the names of all willing 
to enter into Church fellowship, and then left them time 
for reflection upon the responsibilities of such an 
engagement. John Nelson consolidated the work at 
Alpraham by the preparation of a class paper. This 
was intended to promote regularity, and to acquaint the 
preachers with the names and addresses of the mem- 


bers. On a ruled sheet of paper he inserted the names 
and gave it to Mr. Richard Cawley, whose name stood 
at the head as leader. This incident derives additional 
interest from the fact that this is probably the first 
appointment of a class leader in Cheshire. 

As the work developed a new leader was appointed 
at Tiverton near Alpraham. This was William Sim, 
who, with his brothers John and Ralph, was amongst 
those received into the Methodist Society by John 
Nelson (Mag., 1825). In the early part of his life he 
was preserved from drowning by the miraculous sagacity 
of a dog at Ebnor Bank, near Malpas. He was ap- 
pointed a leader comparatively early in life, and ful- 
filled the duties for many years. It is said few men 
stood higher in Wesley's estimation. The three 
brothers, who remained single all their lives, contributed 
much to the development of Methodism in Alpraham 
and Bunbury. Their sister Mary never married, and in 
the last years of her long life was affectionately known 
as "Dame Sim." Janion gives an instance of the 
humility of John Sim, quoting an utterance of his in 
one of the Alpraham L,ove Feasts : — 

" God hath been very good to me, a poor sorry dog 
that I am." This produced a much greater effect on the 
company than any fine speech could have done. 

Jane, the second sister, became the wife of Mr. 
Richard Cawley. The intimacy between the two 
families was very close, and there is evidence that as 
early as 1742 Mr. Richard Cawley was in the habit of 
taking religious counsel with those who afterwards 
became his brothers-in-law. Mrs. Cawley was the 
subject of severe affliction patiently borne. 

The tombstone of this admirable couple in Bun- 
bury Churchyard records : — 

Here lies the body of Richard Cawley of Alpraham, 
who departed this life, the 8th January, 1783, aged 67. 
Also Jane his wife ; she died the 30th March, 1781, aged 
71. Whose lives from their youth, were devoted to God, 
with a steady and uniform course of self denial, with a 
studious exertion, and a most benevolent regard for the 
eternal good of mankind; being greatly regretted by all 
who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. 

The Sim family had another noteworthy Methodist 
connection. Mr. Samuel Smith, who resided on an 
estate of his own at Tattenhall, married Elizabeth, the 
third sister of the brothers Sim. This gentleman, who 
was first induced to attend Methodist preaching by the 
trouble incident upon his expensive habits, was a well- 
known and successful local preacher. His services 
were freely given, not merely near home but in distant 
places. Among these special mention is made of 
Kingswood, near Bristol. His two sons were educated 
at Wesley's School there. This famous foundation, on 
which so much of the care and strength of Wes^ were 
bestowed, is now open only to the sons of Wesleyan 
ministers ; but in the time of Mr. Smith the Wesleyan 
ministry, as we know it, had not come into being. 

On one of his journeys Mr. Smith so favourably 
impressed the Karl of Dartmouth as to receive the offer 
of a benefice from him if he could secure episcopal 
ordination. Mr. Smith, however, refused the kind 
offer, and spent the remainder of his days among the 
Methodists. He died in great peace in 1777, followed 
in three years by his wife. 


Mr. Richard Gardner, of Tattenhall Wood, was a 
member of the Church of England, but had no concern 
about salvation until the need of it was pressed home 
upon him by Mr. Samuel Smith. As the two gentle- 
men were one day riding together and holding deep 
converse, Mr. Smith was so concerned at the darkness 
of his companion that at last he said, " Mr. Gardner, 
you are blind.'' "Nay," replied he, "I can see as well 
as you, Mr. Smith." The words, however, made their 
mark, and Mr. Gardner and his wife were deeply im- 
pressed. Social considerations prevented them from 
seeking the help of the Methodists, and it was not until 
Mr. Gardner was taken ill of a fever that he would 
consent to become a hearer amongst them. Even then 
the good resolution was never carried out for the fever 
shortly proved fatal. But there was hope in his end. 
After his decease his widow soon became a devoted 
Methodist ; her house was always open to receive the 
preachers, and she had the joy of seeing all her children 
united to the Society. 

Mr. Gardner's son, John, and younger daughter, 
Elizabeth, are mentioned in the following pages. There 
seem to have been at least one other son, Richard, and 
one other daughter, who married Mr. Samuel Faulkner, 
of the Potteries, and subsequently of Whitehaven. 

Mr John Gardner was a gifted man, agreeable and 
educated, and his business capacities were successfully 
devoted to the improvement of his estate. His conver- 
sion was brought about by an accident which served to 
arouse him from the sleep of nature. He was thrown 
from his horse on Spittle Hill, near Middlewich, down 
which he was riding rapidly in the dark, and incurred 


such injuries to his knee as to render his state perilous 
for months. To him in this affliction a Methodist 
I^ocal Preacher became a minister of God for good. A 
neighbour of his, James Wooldridge by name, had 
received Wesley's preachers into his own house and a 
Society had been formed there. Under the influence of 
this good man Mr. Gardner was brought to the light, 
and after his recovery into Methodist fellowship. The 
new convert speedily became a preacher. He had both 
gifts and graces ; when he began to preach his dis- 
courses were of a superior character, and the manner of 
his delivery made them very impressive. His labours 
were very arduous, ranging from Caergwrle and Wrex- 
ham on the one side, to Norley and Frodsham on the 
other. However distant his appointment might be Mr. 
Gardner made a point of returning home the same 
night. Wesley esteemed him highly and on more than 
one occasion sought to induce him to become a travel- 
ling preacher, but always in vain. The services 
conducted by Mr. Gardner were the means of bringing 
hundreds to a knowledge of the truth. Amongst the 
seals of his ministry may be mentioned the Rev. Daniel 
Jackson, who rendered good service to the Connexion. 
On one occasion, at the conclusion of a service at 
Wrexham, Mr. Gardner announced that he would 
preach in the same place in a fortnight's time. A man 
in the audience called out, " I will prevent that." 
Before the appointed time arrived the interrupter was 
in his grave. [This is culled, without comment, from 
Janion.] In the course of time Mr. Wooldridge 
removed to Duckington, near Barnhill, and Mr. Gard- 
ner set apart one of the rooms of his own house for 


public worship. Mr. Gardner married Miss Janion, of 
Bradley Orchard, sister of the historian of Chester 
Methodism. They had two sons, who died in early life, 
and two daughters. Of these, one was Mrs. Bridgens, 
a member of Society in Birmingham, who died in 1806; 
the other, Mrs. Hardy, survived her father. In his 
later years Mr. Gardner disposed of his Tattenhall 
property, and entered upon commercial life in Birming- 
ham in 1787. Though this step, unfortunately, was not 
attended by success, he was able to render important 
services to Birmingham Methodism, and when he 
passed away on the 1st January, 1808, funeral sermons 
were preached in the Birmingham Chapels by John 
Nelson, grandson of the famous stonemason evangelist. 
Mrs. Gardner survived until 1816. 

Mr. Samuel Smith's daughter, Mary, who was 
brought to God under the preaching of Thomas Taylor, 
married about 1784 one who occupied a most honourable 
position in local Methodism. The following obituary 

notice {Mag., 1825) will show that he had won for 

himself a good degree : — 

1S24, Deer. 24th, at Alpraham, in the Chester Circuit, 
Mr. Samuel Hitchen, in the seventy-fourth year of his 
age. He had been an upright member of the Methodist 
Society for upwards of fifty-four years, and a class leader 
for upwards of forty. He was an amiable, pious, and 
liberal man ; and died in the Lord. 

A fuller account of his life and labours is given by 
the Rev. William Smith, then Superintendent of the 
Circuit, in the Magazine for November, 1825. He was 
born at Oulton Lowe, in Cheshire. When an un- 
enlightened, but by no means vicious, lad of about 



twenty, he set out one Sunday morning to visit his 
father, from whom he was then distant a few miles. 
Taking a wrong turn in a fit of absent-mindedness he 
found himself quite out of the way. Then he said, " I 
will lose nothing by this mistake ; I want a pair of new 
stockings, and being now near the stocking-weaver's 
house, I will call and order a pair, and thereby save a 
journey." But the stocking-weaver's house was filled 
with people assembled to hear William Alwood, a 
preacher whose labours had done much good in this 
part of Cheshire. Young Hitchen joined the company ; 
the sermon entered his heart ; the intending order was 
postponed ; the remainder of the Sabbath was spent in 
deep contrition. JKSUS gradually led him into the way 
of peace and salvation, and he entered upon a Christian 
course which was destined to be long and useful. In 
1777 John Murlin made him a class leader. In 1790 he 
became a local preacher after considerable hesitation. 
In this capacity his piety and love of souls made him 
very effective. The article says : — 

Many a toilsome journey he has taken on foot to the 
neighbouring villages, beneath an inclement sky and 
exposed to the winter's wind, to hold prayer meetings, 
form societies, meet classes, and preach to the people the 
Gospel of God our Saviour. 

Nay, so unremitting were his efforts to do good to 
his fellow creatures, that, during the last twenty years of 
his life, his plans of usefulness occupied every night, 
except one in fourteen. Nor was the fervency of his 
spirit in the least abated by the infirmities of age. A 
short time before his last illness, when preparing to go a 
distance of two miles to hold a prayer meeting, his son's 
wife said to him, " Father, you ought not to go, at your 
time of life; you should take of yourself." He replied, 


" I think I am taking care of myself." Intimating that 
the care of the soul is, of all others, the most important 
and essential. Many of our Societies in this part of 
Cheshire owe their existence, and in a great degree 
their permanency, to his instrumentality. 

The death of his wife's uncles, the three brothers 
Sim, who were all single men, brought Mr. Hitchen a 
competency. Pie was noted for his generosity ; in par- 
ticular is it recorded that when the high price of corn, 
due to the protracted war between England and France, 
occasioned general distress among the labouring classes, 
he sold his corn at a rate far below market prices ; and 
to an extent which compelled him to become a buyer 
to meet the wants of his own household. His only 
surviving child was John Sim Hitchen, a useful local 
preacher and class leader, who fully maintained all the 
hospitable traditions of the home. Shortly before his 
death the old man called his son to him and gave him a 
solemn and impressive charge : — 

My son, give your whole heart to God at all times. 
Set up a standard against the world. Set up a standard 
for the Lord Jesus Christ, and serve Him with all your 
ransomed powers. Give your children Christian advice 
and counsel. You have heretofore religiously instructed 
them ; do so still ; and walk before them in the fear of 
God. You and your dear wife should speak often to one 
another on the deep things of God, and pray with and 
for each other. Honour the Lord, and He will honour 
you. (B) 

Eighteen months elapsed between Wesley's first 
and second visits to Alpraham. 

Thursday, April 4th, 1751. — We took horse about four. 
The snow fell without iutermissiou, which the north wind 
drove full in our faces. After resting awhile at Bilbrook, 


Newport and Whitchurch, and riding some miles of our 
way, we overtook some people going to the preaching at 
Alpraham, who guided us straight to the house. William 
.Hitchens had not yet begun ; so I took his place, and felt 
no weakness nor weariness, while I declared, Jesus Christ, 
the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. April 6th, being 
Good Friday, I preached at eight, and then walked to 
Bunbury Church. I preached again at one, and in the 
evening at Poole, near Nantwich, to another deeply 
serious audience. 

It would seem that on this occasion Wesley had one 
of his preachers as a companion and another as a 
harbinger. William Hitchens, one of Wesley's earliest 
lay-preachers, at this time had been in the work for six 
years, and had about seven more years of service before 

The following year found the great evangelist in 
the neighbourhood again. 

Monday, March 23rd, 1752. — In the evening I preached 
to a small serious congregation at Billbrook. The storm 
of wind, snow, and hail, was ready for us in the morning 
almost as soon as we set out, and continued the most 
part of the day. When we had heaths or commons to 
cross, it was not easy to sit a horse, especially as the wind 
was full in our teeth. However, we reached Poole (two 
miles from Nantwich) in the evening, and found a con- 
gregation gathered from many miles round; several of 
whom sat up all night for fear of losing the sermon. 

Wednesday, 25th.— After preaching at five and at nine, 
I rode on to Alpraham, where a large congregation of 
serious sensible people attended, both at one and at seven 
in the evening. 

For the third time, therefore, Wesley came within a few 
miles of Chester and went away without having visited 


the city. Within three months' time, however, there 
commenced a series of visits extending over very many 
years and continuing nearly to the end of Wesley's life. 

After the original society ceased to use the vestry 
as a place of meeting, Mr. Evans, the parish clerk and 
village schoolmaster, through whom in all probability 
the vestry had been available, opened his house to the 
members. For several years they met there on the 
Sunday afternoon or evening after Church hours. 
When Mr. Evans removed to Middlewich the class 
meetings, in addition to the preaching services, were 
held at Mr. S. Cawley's. Within about twelve months 
the class was removed to the house of Mr. Sim. Subse- 
quently the preaching was removed thither also. There 
it continued until Christmas, 1823, with the exception 
of one summer during which the house was rebuilding. 
In T823 a large room was engaged for a Sunday School 
and the services were held there as it afforded better 
accommodation. In 1806 a deed was signed by which 
land was secured in perpetuity for the erection of a 
Chapel in Bunbury, an enterprise which was immediately 
carried out by subscription, of which Samuel Hitchen 
had the management. In 1812 this was enlarged. In 
1862 a new and beautiful Chapel was erected. A Chapel 
was erected at Alpraham in 1829, as described in the 
following contemporary extract. 

New Methodist Chapei,. — A very neat structure 
built by the Wesleyan Connection, calculated to accom- 
modate 400 persons, was opened for Divine Service at 
Alpraham in this County, on Friday week, on which 
occasion the Rev. Robt. Newton of Liverpool preached; 
and on the following Sabbath the Rev. James Everett of 
Manchester also made a feeling and very powerful appeal 


in aid of the funds for liquidating the expense. The 
Chapel was crowded to excess at each of the Services, 
and the sum of £52 was collected. Alpraham is a place 
of some note in the annals of Methodism. In the year 
1744 the Rev. John Wesley held the first Conference in 
London, and in the year 1749, at the earnest solicitation 
of several individuals resident in the neighbourhood of 
Alpraham, he visited that place and preached in the 
house now the residence of Mr. J. S. Hitchen, and at that 
time and since in the occupation of his respected family. 
From that time until the opening of the Chapel (a period 
of 80 years) the Ministers in the Methodist Connection 
have continued to publish the glad tidings of salvation 
under the same hospitable roof, where they always find a 
hearty welcome and a home. (Chester Chronicle, June $th> 

The work at Chester and Alpraham is mentioned in 
an extraordinary poem included by William Darney in 
a volume of his hymns published in L,eeds in 1751. 
This eccentric evangelist was an illiterate Scotchman 
who began to itinerate upon his own account, in 1742, 
among the Methodist societies in Yorkshire. He 
received much encouragement from Grimshaw, and 
succeeded in establishing many societies in Todmorden, 
Heptonstall, and neighbourhood. These went by the 
name of William Darney's societies, much in the same 
way as Cheshire was associated with the name of John 
Bennet. Though permitted to preach, Darney never 
had the full sanction of the Wesleys. Charles Wesley 
refused to admit him to a Conference in L,eeds in 1751, 
and left written instructions that unless he would 
abstain from "railing, begging, and printing nonsense,'* 
he should n ot be allowed to preach in connection with 
Methodism any more. 


The following verses are given here on account of 
their local references ; they will also serve to shew the 
quality of Darney's verse. 

75 Therefore, O Manchester ! return, 

this Call it is for you ; 
Seek to be sav'd by Grace alone, 
this Doctrine it is true. 

76 True Grace thro' Faith will bring good Fruit, 

and make your Hearts rejoice, 
In the true Vine then you take root, 
and glorifie his Grace. 

77 In Cheshire still the Work doth spread, 

and J3SUS gets the Day : 
O praise him all ye faithful Seed, 
still do ye watch and pray- 

78 All ye at Holme, likewise Botkbank, 

Warbicrton, Oldfield-brow ; 
Go on dear Souls, and never shrink, 
for Jesus pleads for you. 

79 In Chester, and in Alpreham, 

there's some that can rejoice ; 
Their Hearts do dance at Jesus Name, 
who sav'd them by his Grace. 

80 Now many Places here and there, 

do long to hear the sound ; 

And Multitudes in Derbyshire, 

have the Redeemer found. 

Readers of this strange effusion, entitled The 
Progress of the Gospel in divers parts of Great Bratain, 
(sic) will not be surprised at the author's remark : 
" Take notice, that the first Hymn in the Book which 


gives an account of the Progress of the Gospel, is not 
made so proper for singing as for reading." Nor will 
they be surprised at the remark of the Rev. Thomas 
Jackson in his Life of Charles Wesley: "They are 
amongst the most rude and unpolished compositions 
that were ever committed to the press." 

In another early effusion, of a similar order, though 
less rugged, is found the following : — 

Avaunt my muse, once more thy pinions try, 

And from the centre of the kingdom fly; 

Survey God's work towards the western shore, 

And view some parts we have not viewed before. 

Manchester, Liverpool, West Chester, too, 

There Jesus found much work for Him to do. 

In all these places, and the country round, 

There now are thousands of bright Christians found, 

Converted since field preaching did abound. 1 

In the congregation at Alpraham were often to be 
found a couple named Jackson. Their son, Samuel, 
who was born at Alpraham in 1785, has left upon record 
his vivid recollection of the immense crowd which 
assembled in the place to hear a funeral sermon on 
Wesley's decease, and how he had been affected to see 
so many in tears. It was not, however, until he reached 
his majority that this lad was truly converted. In 18 13 
he became a local preacher in the Northwich Circuit in 
which he then resided, and rendered good service for 
over fifty years. His younger brother, John, a faithful, 
liberal Methodist for many years, married Jane Done of 

1 The Methodist Attempted in Plain Metre. Nottingham : 
printed jor the author, at G. Burbage's office on the Long Row, 
1780. (Said to be by James Kershaw.) 


Eaton. The seventh child of this worthy pair was born 
at High wayside, Alpraham, on May 7th, 1838, and 
received the name of William. John Jackson subse- 
quently removed to Cholmondeston in the Nantwich 
Circuit, which in 1866 sent out his son William into the 
ministty. The Rev. William Jackson has served 
Methodism nobly in many Circuits, and is now the 
Chairman of the Portsmouth District (1902). 

In all probability Joseph I,ewis, who was born at 
Bunbury in 1788, justified by faith in 1806, received as a 
candidate for the ministry in 181 1, may be claimed as 
one of the fruits of Methodist preaching in the neigh- 
bourhood. He died in 1856. John Jones, who was 
born at Tiverton in the same year, died in Chester in 
1872. As a local preacher in the North wich Circuit, 
residing at Weaverham, he preached 4,680 sermons, 
travelling 30,000 miles to do so. 


introduction of metbodism into tbe Citp of 

CDCSten 1 747-1 764- 

THE introduction of Methodism into the city of 
Chester took place several years before Wesley 
himself visited the neighbourhood. John Bennet's 
work in Cheshire has been already mentioned. The 
"Round" which went specially by his name in the 
earliest days was a very extensive one. It comprised 
Chinley in Derbyshire, Macclesfield, Burslem, Alpra- 
ham, Chester, Holywell ; passing over the rising town of 
Ijverpool, it went onward to Whitehaven in Cumber- 
land, and back to Bolton, Manchester, and Chinley, 
including many of the intermediate towns and villages. 
It is said that Bennet was invited to Chester by 
George Shaw, a tailor, then living in Boughton, a 
district lying on the outskirts of Chester as it is entered 
by the main roads from Manchester and Whitchurch. 
He had heard the preachers in Bolton and other places. 
The following letter describes what appears to be the 
first visit of John Bennet to the city. Probably he was 


there again in August on the occasion of his journey 
through the district with Grimshaw, of Haworth. 

Chinley, March 7th, 1746-7. 

This day I have given Mr. Charles Wesley a particular 
account of the Societies in Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Lanca- 
shire, according to his Request. His coming was not in vain. 
Surely a little cloud of Witnesses are arisen amongst us, who 
received the Word of Reconciliation under his ministry. I 
trust God will send you also hither, to water the good Seed of 
His Word. Last week I spent three days in and about 
Chester, and the Word was gladly received. I am assured 
that the Time is come that the Gospel must be preached in that 
City. The Inhabitants received me gladly, and said, "We 
have heard of Wesley, and read his books : why could you not 
have come hither sooner?" They also desired that I would 
write immediately and entreat you to come up thither also. I 
expounded at a town [Tarvin] four miles from Chester, where 
several of our friends (unknown to you) came to hear. A little 
society is begun near Namptwich, and they have got your 
Hymn books, &c. These long to see you. The manner I 
proceeded at Chester was as followeth : I heard a religious 
Society was kept in the City, and so I made an enquiry and 
found them out, upon which I was desired to preach, and 
afterwards pressed upon to stay longer, or visit them again. — 
I think your way is plain and open into those parts. I desire, 
if you can, you will allow yourself some time, and visit them 
in your Return from the North. If you intend to do so, please 
to let me know in time, that I may give Notice; for the people 
will come from each quarter 

I am, 
Your unworthy Brother and Son in the Gospel, 

(Magazine, 1778, p. 471). 

John Bennet's work in Chester and the county was 
spread over a number of years, and his labours count 


for very much in the early history of Methodism in the 
district. At the sixth Annual Conference, November, 
1749, a great step was taken towards the organization 
of the growing work. It was decided that among the 
"Helpers" appointed to a Circuit one should be 
invested with special responsibility and authority. He 
was to be distinguished from his brother Helpers by the 
title of "Assistant," (altered in modern times to 
" Superintendent "). In the absence of the Wesleys all 
Methodist work and workers were to be under the 
direction of the Assistant, who was responsible to 
Wesley only- John Bennet was appointed to this 
important position for the Cheshire Circuit, then com- 
prising Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and 
parts of Yorkshire as far as Sheffield. (c) 

Early in 1753, Bennet unhappily severed his con- 
nection with Wesley, and there was widespread defec- 
tion throughout the Circuit. The Methodists of Chester 
remained loyal to Wesley (d) 

Soon after the first appearance of the itinerant 
evangelists, Mr. George Catton of Huntington Hall, 
near Chester, opened his house for preaching, and 
extended hospitality to the preachers. In 1751 a house 
was opened in the City itself for the same purpose by 
Mr. Richard Jones of L,ove I^ane, who was engaged in 
the tobacco pipe manufacture, for which the street was 
famous throughout a long period. The open air 
preaching, so characteristic of early Methodism, was 
also carried on with vigour. Several localities are 
mentioned as having been frequented for this purpose ; 
the open place near St. John's Church (presumably the 
site now occupied by the Grosvenor Park), the square 


near St. Martin's of the Ash, the Gallows' Hill near the 
I^epers' Hospital in Boughton, the present site of Queen 
Street Chapel (then known as the tilting croft), and the 
Dee Banks. In these places the Helpers of Wesley- 
preached when they visited Chester and in their absence 
the converts did their best to publish the Gospel news 
to their friends and neighbours. 

A Society was formed in accordance with the 
" Rules and Regulations of the people commonly called 
Methodists," drawn up by the Wesleys a few years 
previously. Early in 1752, when the house of Mr. Jones 
was proving too strait for the increasing congregation, 
the little Society was gladdened by the offer at a reason- 
able rent of a barn which they might fit up as they 
pleased. This barn was in a notable locality of Chester, 
known as St. Martin's Ash. The modern Square, so 
well known to all Cestrians, is not so large as the open 
space of earlier times to which the people resorted for 
recreation. The names in the immediate neighbourhood, 
White Friars, Black Friars and Gray Friars, serve to 
perpetuate the associations of ancient times. As the 
site was near the river, the Race Course, the Castle, and 
one part of the City Walls, it was more public than most 
of those selected by the early Methodists. The barn 
was a large and lofty structure and was made to provide 
for nearly 200 persons by the erection of a gallery. It 
stood on the south side of the Square, opposite the 
Church of St. Martin's of the Ash, thus distinguished 
from St. Martin's in the Fields, another Chester Church. 
The ancient Church of St. Martin's in the Ash had been 
replaced in 1721 by a new one. This was neither large 
nor costly and perhaps the transformed barn was quite 


as commodious and almost as handsome as the Episco- 
palian Church occupying the historic site opposite. 

It was shortly after their establishment in St. 
Martin's Ash that the Chester Methodists received their 
first visit from the founder of Methodism. The fact that 
the visit of 1752 fills a considerable space in Wesley's 
Journal leads to the conclusion that when he refers to 
the "accustomed place" of preaching, he does not 
imply that he had been there himself on any previous 
occasion. The Chester tradition has always had it that 
this was the first visit. George Walker, the first 
Steward of St. John Street, wrote the following in the 
manuscript history of the introduction of Methodism 
into Chester which he inserted in the Trustees' Minute 
Book in 1812 : — 

In the June of the same year, 1752, that bright luminary 
of the Christian World (Oh ! how shall the writer of these 
memoirs, express in words his veneration of the character and 
conduct of the man he so highly respected, and so dearly 
loved), that refulgent star of righteousness, in whose life and 
actions the doctrines and practice of the Gospel truths show 
with peculiar lustre, that living evidence of the solid power of 
inspiration, that zealous patron of the Apostolic creed, that 
unalienable disciple of the cross of Christ, that unwearied 
promoter of the interests of the kingdom of the Redeemer, that 
assiduous gatherer of the spiritual Israel of the Lord, that 
Father of Methodism, and patriarch of the immensely crowded 
family who have embraced the doctrines, Mr. Wesley, paid 
his first Ministerial visit to the Chester Society. Here he was 
hailed as an Angel of God, respected as the servant of the 
Most High, and beloved as the most patriotic friend, and 
Father of the Church. From this period, his visits and 
superintendence of the Chester Society, became a regular part 
of his engagements, and it may be said on the part of his 
adherents, they sincerely loved him, and ever held his approach 


among them as an high, a festive, and a Jubilee day ! ! ! Oh ! 
what simplicity and Christian love ! Well does the writer 
recollect, and with indescribable pleasure trace back the happy 
hours spent in his enlivening conversation, and his instructive 
discourses. Yea, and while memory holds her place, his name, 
his virtues, will never be forgot ! ! ! (E) 

The following quotations give Wesley's deeply- 
interesting account of his first visit to Chester : — 

Monday, June 15th, 1752. — I had many little trials in this 
journey, of a kind I had not known before. I had borrowed a 
young, strong mare, when I set out from Manchester. But 
she fell lame before I got to Grimsby. I procured another, but 
was dismounted again between Newcastle and Berwick. At 
my return to Manchester, I took my own. But she had lamed 
herself in the pasture. I thought, nevertheless, to ride her 
three or four miles to-day. But she was gone out of the 
giound, and we could hear nothing of her. However, I 
comforted myself that I had another at Manchester, which I 
had lately bought. But when I came thither, I found, one 
had borrowed her too, and rode her away to Chester. 

Saturday, 20th, I rode to Chester, and preached at six in 
the accustomed place, a little without the gates, near St. John's 
Church. One single man, a poor alehouse-keeper, seemed 
disgusted, spoke a harmless word, and ran away with all 
speed. All the rest behaved with the utmost seriousness, 
while I declared The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, 21st, I preached at seven in a much larger house, 
which was just taken, near St. Martin's Church, as eminent 
a part of the town as Drury Lane is in London, or as the 

Horse Fair was in Bristol. At Church, Mr. L preached a 

strong, plain, useful sermon, upon the faith of Abraham. At 
one, I began preaching again, on We preach not ourselves, but 
Christ Jesus the Lord. But the house not containing half of 
the congregation, I was obliged to stand at the door, on one 
side of a kind of Square, large enough to contain ten or twelve 
thousand people. I had a few hours before spoken to the 


captain of a vessel, with whom I proposed sailing for Dublin : 
and the wind being fair, I knew not whether I should stay to 
preach another sermon in Chester. I find it useful to be in 
such a state of suspense : wherein I know not what will be the 
next hour, but lean absolutely on His disposal who knoweth 
and ruleth all things well. 

At four, I preached in the Square, to a much larger con- 
gregation, among whom were abundance of gentry. One man 
screamed and hallooed as loud as he could, but none seconded 
or regarded him. The rest of the congregation were steadily 
serious from the beginning to the end. 

Monday, 22nd, we walked round the walls of the city, 
which are something more than a mile and three quarters in 
circumference. But there are many vacant spaces within the 
walls, many gardens, and a good deal of pasture ground. So 
that I believe Newcastle-upon-Tyne, within the walls, contains 
at least a third more houses than Chester. The greatest con- 
venience here is what they call The Rows', that is, covered 
galleries, which run through the main streets on each side, 
from East to West, and from North to South: by which means 
one may walk both clean and dry in any weather, trom one 
end of the city to the other. I preached at six in the evening 
in the Square, to a vast multitude, rich and poor. The far 
greater part, the gentry in particular, were seriously and deeply 
attentive : though a few of the rabble, most of them drunk, 
laboured much to make a disturbance. One might already 
perceive a great increase of earnestness in the generality of the 
hearers. So is God able to cut short his work, to wound or 
heal, in whatever time it pleaseth Him. 

On the Tuesday morning Wesley received letters 
which made it necessary for him to proceed to Bristol 
with all speed. Ten o'clock found him on his way 
thither. Nine days later he records : — 

Wednesday, July 1st. Having finished my business at 
Bristol, I took horse again, and preached that evening at 
Evesham. Thursday, 2nd, I reached Bilbrook and Chester. 


Friday, 3rd. I was saying in the morning to Mr. Parker, 
"Considering the good that has been done here already, I 
wonder the people of Chester are so quiet." He answered, 
" You must not expect they will be so always." Accordingly, 
one of the first things I heard after I came into the town was, 
that for two nights before, the mob had been employed in 
pulling down the house where I had preached. I asked, 
" Were there no Magistrates in the City ?" Several answered 
me, " We went to the Mayor, after the first riot, and desired 
a warrant to bring the rioters before him, but he positively 
refused to grant any, or take any informations about it." So, 
being undisturbed, they assembled again the next night, and 
finished their work. 

Saturday, 4th, I preached in our old room. 

Sunday, 5th, I stood at seven in the morning near the ruins 
of the house, and explained the principles and practice of that 
Sect which is everywhere spoken against. I went afterwards to 
St. Martin's Church, which stands close to the place. The 
gentleman who officiated, seemed to be extremely moved at 
several passages of the second Lesson, Luke xvii. particularly, 
It is impossible but that offences will come ; bat woe unto him 
through whom they come. It were better for him that a mill- 
stone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than 
that he should offend one of these little ones. He began his 
sermon nearly in these words, " The last Lord's day I preached 
on doing as you would be done to, in hopes of preventing such 
proceedings as are contrary to all justice, mercy, and humanity. 
As I could not do that, I have chosen these words for your 
present consideration, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are 
of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to 
save them." He concluded nearly thus : " I am sorry that any 
such outrage should be committed, particularly in this parish ; 
where I have been teaching so many years. And to how little 
purpose ! I will remove as soon as I possibly can from a place 
where I can do so little good. O what an account have they to 
make, who have either occasioned or encouraged these pro- 
ceedings! May God grant, that they may repent in time ! That 


they may know what spirit they are of! That they may, before 
it is too late, acknowledge and love the truth as it is in Jesus.' 
I preached again in the same place at one, and at four, 
and the whole congregation were quiet and serious. 

It cannot be stated with certainty who were the 
clergymen referred to in these extracts from the Journal. 

On Sunday, June 21st, Wesley heard Mr. Iy at Church. 

He does not say which Church. In the list of Vicars 
given in Fenwic&s History of Chester, there is no Mr. 

Iv ■ at this date. It may have been a visitor; or an 

unbeneficed Clergyman ; or possibly Wesley attended 
St. Peter's Church, the Vicar of which at this period is 
not recorded. Sunday, July 5th, Wesley heard at St. 
Martin's the gentleman who officiated. Probably this was 
Rev. John Baldwin, M.A., Vicar 1739-1793. 

On the Monday, as no ship was ready to sail for 
Ireland, Wesley "took horse, with my wife," for White- 
haven. The first stage of the journey, which commenced 
at nine or ten in the morning, took them to Manchester, 
where the tireless preacher spoke the same evening. The 
words, "with my wife," must not be overlooked. On 
February 18th, 1751, Wesley had been united in matri- 
mony at Wandsworth Parish Church, to the widow of 
Noah Vazeille, merchant, of Fenchurch Street, London. 
Mrs. Wesley's visit to Chester took place, therefore, 
in the early days of her married life, during 
the first four years of which she travelled extensively 
with her husband. At the time of the marriage it 
was agreed that Wesley should not preach one 
sermon or travel one mile the less on his wife's 
account. In the April preceding this Chester visit, 
Wesley informed a friend, "My wife is, at least, as 


well as when we left London ; the more she travels the 
better she bears it." Even in these early years, how- 
ever, the storms were brewing. It is a matter of 
notoriety that the marriage proved most unhappy, and 
cast a dark shadow over thirty years of Wesley's life. 1 

The cruel wrong inflicted upon the Society by the 
destruction of the barn sanctuary did not break their 
spirit. The room in L,ove I^ane being spared them as a 
rallying centre, the re-erection of the barn was under- 
taken with such vigour that they were able to occupy 
it again by Christmas, 1752. 

There is preserved in Manchester a very remarkable 
old account book. The first page, which was declared 
by George Marsden to be in the handwriting of John 
Wesley, reads as follows : — 

A True Account of the Money Bro*. in by the Stewards 
from Each Society in the Manchester Round ; for the use of 
the Preachers, and for ye discharging of Nescessary Expence. 
Aprill ye 20, 1752. 
Chester Jonh. Pritchard 12/- 

Alpraham Ricd. Cawley 12/- 

Acton \Sfm. Davison 7/- 

Boothbank Jon. Cross 10/11 

Oldfield Brow William Johnson 8/- 

Davyholme Robert Haywood 15/- 

Shackerley Jo n - Hampson 4/- 

Bolton George Eskrick 8/2 

Bank House James Scofield 8/- 

Asbury Jos. Booth 5/6 

Manchester Ricd. Barlow £2 3 5 

Kadbrooke Mary Webster 6 

Total £^ 


1. A full and fair account of the whole matter may be found in 
Telford's John Wesley, chap. xv. 


Of George Esgrick it is elsewhere recorded that he 
once walked the forty miles to Chester, and back next 
day, spending twopence on the road each way. 

It should be said that the meeting was at Boothbank 
near Bucklow Hill. 

Successive items from Chester are : — 

1752 June, 12/-; Sept., 14/-; Deer., 14/-. 

1753 March, 18/- (these by Jonathan Pritchard) ; June, 32/- 

(by Richard Jones); Sep., 19/- (by John Hampson); 
Deer., 21/- (do.). 

1754 March, 27/3 (do.); June, 20/- (by Henry Moss); Sept., 

14/- (by J. P.) ; Deer., 19/6 (by H. Moss). 

1755 March, 16/9; June, 20/- (both by J. P.); Sep., 20/- 

(by John Hampson). 

From this point the accounts are less complete — 

1756 June, 8/- (by J. P.). 

Octr. 27/- (by John Whitehead). 

1757 Jany. 27/3 (by J. P.) 
March, 28/2 (by M. Johnson). 
June, 27/9 (by John Hacker). 
Also, by the same, 

Dudden Heath, 10/- 
Alpraham, g/- 
Wood Green, 6/6 
Little Acton and Poole, 21/6 
Octr., (by* #), 14/4 
1762 May, Mold, .... 

Parkgate, g/- 

Alpraham, 10/- 

Chester, 42/- 

Little Acton, 17/. 

There are also records of monies brought from Tattenhall 
by Samuel Smith and Richard Bruce. 


On the debit side there appear many interesting items, e.g. : 

1752 Hopper, travelling charges to Newcastle and 

pocket money, One guinea. Carriage of his 

box, 2/1. 

1752 July 12, Fenwick 1/6, Licensing Chester House. 

John Haughton was placed in charge of the Cheshire 
Circuit or Manchester Round in 1752. His stay was 
short, for in 1754 he became a clergyman of the Epis- 
copal Church and obtained a position in Ireland. 

Associated with Haughton during part of 1753 was 
one who did and suffered much in the early days of 
Methodism, Jonathan Maskew. He had enjoyed the 
privilege of close association with the apostolic Vicar 
of Haworth. The circumstances of his appointment 
will throw a valuable sidelight upon the Methodism of 
those days. Although the limits of the Circuits were 
traced out and appointments to them made by the 
Conference, yet the Helpers were not stationed with the 
regularity of modern times. The Conferences them- 
selves were not held at fixed dates, but at times best 
suiting the convenience of Wesley and others. During 
one year two Conferences were held. The labourers 
were few and emergencies frequently arose from revival 
and persecution alike, to say nothing of sickness, 
death, and defection. There being no " list of reserve," 
the frequent moving of the Helpers became necessary. 
In these matters the word of Wesley was supreme. In 
1752 Maskew had been directed to labour in Newcastle- 
upon-Tyne and its vicinity. This he did until early in 
1753, when he received the following letter of instruc- 
tion : — x 

1. EM. P. IV., 213. 


she does remove to Chester, I trust that it will be for the Good 
of Many. For she has both a searching & a healing Spirit. 

I am, 
Your affectionate Brother, 

[Addressed to] 

Mr. Jonathan Pritchard, 

In Boughton, near Chester. 

This letter agrees with the statement of John 
Gaulter 1 : — 

About a year after the Society had entered their new 
preaching house, Mr. John Wesley, in one of his annual tours, 
called upon them. He united the congregations in the city and 
neighbourhood to the Manchester Circuit, and appointed a 
regular change of travelling ministers, according to the 
established economy of the Connection. This infant plant of 
the Church was flourished by a succession of faithful pastors. 
Every other Lord's Day the Preachers attended, which at that 
period of time was considered as an ample supply. 

Of "Sister Barlow," mentioned in the letter, no 
record has been found in Chester. It may be noted that 
Manchester was represented by Richard Barlow at the 
Boothbank Quarterly Meeting. 

Jonathan Maskew did not maintain his position in 
the itinerant ranks to the end of his life. He married a 
widow and settled down on a farm near Haworth. His 
zeal, however, was unabated, and he practically created 
a Circuit for himself in the surrounding country. 
Gaulter, who wrote his life, depicts him actively en- 
gaged in Christian work until his death in 1793. Many 
of those who entered the company of Helpers left after 

1. Mag., 1809. 


a few years. The extreme severity of the labours to 
which the preachers -were called proved too much for 
any but the strongest men. The desire for marriage 
and a settled habitation prevailed with many. Happily 
it may be said of many who thus left the ''full" work, 
that they became centres of light in the neighbourhoods 
where they settled. 

A month after dispatching Maskew to the Man- 
chester round, Wesley paid his third visit to the city of 
Chester, where he found a marked improvement upon 
the previous state of affairs. 

Tuesday, March 27th, 1753, We rode to Chester, where we 
found the scene quite changed, since I was here before. There 
is now no talk of pulling down houses. The present Mayor, 
being a man of courage as well as honesty, will suffer no riot 
of any kind, so that there is peace through all the city. 

Wednesday, 28th, The house was full of serious hearers 
at five. In the evening some gay young men made a little 
disturbance; and a large mob was gathered about the door. 
But in a short time, they dispersed of themselves. However, 
we thought it best to acquaint the Mayor with what had 
passed : on which he ordered the City Crier, to go down next 
evening and proclaim, that all riots should be severely 
punished. And promised, if need were, to come down 
himself and read the act of Parliament. But it needed not. 
After his mind was known, none was so hardy as to make a 

Who was this courageous Mayor ? There is every 
reason for believing that it was Thomas Broster. It is 
true that Matthew Harrison, in a note published in the 
Cheshire Sheaf, declares that Broster was the Mayor who 
refused to protect the Methodists ; but this is probably 
only because the date " 1752 " is assigned to Broster in the 


municipal records. If Broster was elected towards the 
close of 1752 he would be in office during April, 1753. 
That this was the case is definitely stated in a little 
volume published in 1839 by the Rev. P C. Turner, 
entitled Memoirs of Miss Sarah Broster, of Chester. Miss 
Broster, of whom a fuller account is given on a later 
page, was the daughter of Mr. Peter Broster (Mayor 
1791) and granddaughter of Mr. Thomas Broster 
(Mayor 1752). Mr. Turner says one of the gay young 
men referred to in Wesley's Journal as endeavouring to 
make a disturbance 

was brother to the late Sir Richard Perrins, Knight, one of the 
Barons of the Exchequer. The Mayor sent three constables 
to bring the young men before him ; when they appeared they 
had each a large oak stick in their hands. The Mayor said to 
them You will have no use for those weapons in the place 
where I am going to send you, therefore lay them down on this 
table. They then asked the Mayor where he meant to send 
them. He said To the house of correction unless you can get 
some respectable person to engage for your future good 
behaviour. They then sent out and procured a proper person, 
who promised for their future good conduct, and they were 
discharged; but the Mayor detained their weapons. This 
support of the Methodists gave offence to some of the clergy, 
and also much to the relations of the three young gentlemen. 

At the Conference held in May. 1753, the names of 
John Haughton and James Scholfield were put down 
for the Cheshire Circuit. The name of the second 
preacher is also down for the Lincolnshire Circuit. 
Presumably he was to spend part of the year in each 
round. Wesley had to make the most of his scanty 
material, and provide each Circuit with some help from 
the itinerants. Ljke Haughton and Maskew, Scholfield 
soon left the work. L,ike Bennet he entered upon a 


course of active opposition to the Wesleys. But there 
were no redeeming features in his case ; on the contrary 
the sad record of his unfaithfulness is to be found in 
the Journals under date April, 1757. 

In May, 1753 (and probably on other occasions), 
there passed through Chester on his way to I/mdon 
from Dublin, via Parkgate, one of the most eminent of 
the men whom God raised up to aid in the Evangelical 
Revival. This was Thomas Walsh, who added to the 
zeal of his comrades remarkable accomplishments as a 
student of the sacred languages. Wesley, no mean 
judge, said, "Such a master of Biblic knowledge I 
never saw before, and never expect to see again." The 
impression produced in Chester by Walsh, who was at 
the time only a young man of some three and twenty 
years, was remarkable. The open space near the 
"Room" had to be used to accommodate the crowds 
who flocked to hear him. 

The Societies in Chester and the neighbourhood 
were also privileged during this year to receive con- 
siderable encouragement from the fervent evangelist, 
George Whitefield. It is probable that he passed 
through Chester as early as 1738, when, on November 
30, he landed at Parkgate and hurried to Nantwich. 
But the first record of his preaching in Chester is as 
follows : — 


Oct. 27TH, T753, 

My last I think was from Nantwich. I have 

preached four times at Alpraham in Cheshire, where the Lord 

was with us of a truth ; and where He had prepared my way, 

by blessing several of my poor writings. At Chester, I 


preached four times ; a great concourse attended ; all was 
quiet; several of the clergy were present; and the word came 
with power. I have since heard that the most noted rebel in 
the town was brought under deep conviction and could not 
sleep night or day. Wrexham has been a rude 

place ; and, upon my coming there, the town was alarmed, and 
several thousands came to hear. Some of the baser sort made 
a great noise, and threw stones, but none touched me, and, I 
trust, our Lord got Himself the victory. Next day, near 
Alpraham, we had another heaven upon earth. 1 

The Conference of 1754 was held in L/Ondon. One 
of the preachers appointed to the extensive tract of 
country forming the Manchester Circuit was Peter Jaco, 
then girding on the armour which he was to wear with 
honour for many years. He says : — 

At the Conference in London, the 4th of May, 1754, I was 
appointed for the Manchester Circuit, which then took in 
Cheshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and part of 
Yorkshire. Here God so blessed my mean labours, that I was 
fully convinced He had called me to preach His Gospel. 
Meantime my hardships were great. I had many difficulties to 
struggle with. In some places the work was to begin ; and in 
most places being in its infancy, we had hardly the necessaries 
of life; so that after preaching three or four times a day, and 
riding thirty or forty miles, I have often been thankful for a 
little clean straw, with a canvas sheet, to lie on. Very 
frequently also we had violent oppositions. At Warrington I 
was struck so violently with a brick on the breast, that the blood 
gushed out through my mouth, nose, and ears. 2 

The twelfth Conference, that of 1755, was held at 
L,eeds, commencing on May 6th. The inchoate and 
fragmentary character of Methodism, contrasting so 

1. Tyerman's Whitefieid II., 315. 2. E.M.P. I., 264. 


strongly with the precision exhibited in subsequent 
periods of its history, appears from the fact that three 
lists of Preachers are inserted in the " Minutes." The 
first list contains thirty-four names, beginning with 
those of John and Charles Wesley, and is headed "Our 
present itinerants." The second list, containing twelve 
names, is headed " Half-itinerants." These men did 
not give themselves up entirely to preaching nor 
did they put themselves wholly at the disposal of the 
Wesleys, but made occasional evangelistic excursions, 
receiving such support as was forthcoming from the 
people amongst whom they laboured. They retained a 
settled home, and in some cases a business. The third 
list contains the names of fourteen brethren styled 
" our chief local preachers." This designation is some- 
what perplexing. How was the line drawn between 
ordinary and chief local preachers ? 

The*" Cheshire circuit still included Manchester and 
Liverpool, together with the rest of Lancashire and 
portions of other counties. It was committed to the 
charge of R. Moss as Assistant, a brother who did not 
remain among the itinerant preachers to the end of his 
life, and whose work does not appear to have left any 
very distinct mark. Jacob Rowel was the Helper. He 
had already endured much hardness and had sustained 
actual bodily injury during his labours. When he died 
nine-and-twenty years later the Conference obituary 
described him as a "faithful old soldier, fairly worn out 
in his Master's service." 

The following letter, the original of which was 
kindly lent by Mrs. James Bowers, is of remarkable 


interest from several points of view. There is good 
reason to believe that it was addressed to Jonathan 
Pritchard, but the letter itself bears no address or name. 


June i6th, 1756. 
My Dear Brother, 

If our brethren at Chester purpose ever to prosecute, they 
cannot have a fairer Opportunity : provided they have a 
sufficient number of Witnesses whose Depositions will come 
home to the point; Particularly with regard to those words, 
You shall have no Justice from me. Those Depositions might 
be drawn up in the Country, and sent up to Mr. I'Anson in New 
Palace Yard, Westminster. The sooner the better; for Term 
will begin shortly. Delay doe's much hurt in Cases of this 
Kind. Do you hear how ye Manchester Mob is now ? 

I am, 
Your affectionate Brother, 

Is b. Moss gone yet into the Birstal Circuit ? 

The letter is in good preservation, and the date is 
written with perfect clearness. A critical examination 
brings out several points which call for consideration. 
To begin with, the letter is headed " London " ; but at 
the date given Wesley was in the midst of a long visit 
to Ireland, and his doings on that very day are described 
in the Journals. The heading may be an oversight 
arising from the fact that Wesley wrote more letters 
from London than from any other place ; though 
remarkably accurate, he was not infallible, and it may 
here be recalled that it was partly through his failure to 
address a letter properly that his intention to marry 
Grace Murray was circumvented by his brother. It 
seems more probable, however, that the heading was 

4 6 

intentionally adopted to indicate that any reply should 
be sent to the Metropolis, and not to Ireland, where the 
writer had no permanent address. 

The date agrees with the query about R. Moss, who 
was appointed to the Cheshire Circuit at the Confer- 
ence of 1755. But it is not so easy to see how the date 
can harmonise with the reference to prosecution. The 
riot already described in these pages, in the course of 
which the mob pulled down the first chapel in St. 
Martin's Ash, and the Mayor refused redress, was in 
July, 1752. No other actual riot is recorded, but Wesley 
cannot be referring to this four years after its occurr- 
ence, and counselling against delay in prosecution 
The probable order of events is as follows : — Riot in 
1752 ; no appeal made from the Mayor's action until too 
much time had elapsed ; the next Mayor, a man of 
integrity, kept the rabble well in hand; persecution 


subsequently renewed, and an unsuccessful application 
made for protection. In 1756, therefore, Wesley's 
advice was sought, and because the evil conduct was 
persistent he advised an immediate appeal to the 
highest court. That this was not the first assault, and 
that on some previous occasions there had been delay, 
is implied in the words — If purpose ever. 

To seek the protection of the law was quite in accord 
with the principles of the founders of Methodism. 
They were nobly free from all personal vindictiveness, 
but they believed that a magistrate should not bear the 
sword in vain. (F) 

On Thursday, August 12th, 1756, Wesley crossed 
from Dublin to Holyhead, accompanied by Thomas 


Walsh, John Haughton and J. Morgan. The passage, 
described as pleasant, occupied twenty-three hours. 

Friday, August 13th, Having hired horses for Chester, we 
set out about seven. 

Saturday, 14th, . We rode on, through one of 

the pleasantest countries in the world, by Holywell, to Chester. 
Here we had a comfortable meeting in the evening ; as well as 
the next day, both in the room, and in the square. 

Monday. 16th, The rain was suspended, while I preached 
to a large and quiet congregation. 

Not many months afterwards Wesley was again in 
Chester. He reached it by way of Nantwich and Poole, 
preaching at each of these places. 

Wednesday, April 20th, 1757, The congregation at Chester 
in the evening was as quiet and serious as that at the 
Foundery : and the Society was nearly a third part larger than 
when I was here in Autumn. 

A notable accession to the Society in this year was 
Peter Heath. He was born in 173 1 of pious parents. 
He had a long and anxious search for the light ; but the 
peace of God entered his soul in 1757 as he was engaged 
in private prayer. His newly found joy could not be 
kept to himself until the next class meeting should 
come round, so he went from house to house among his 
friends calling upon them to rejoice with him. 

In 1758, John Nelson was once more in the neigh- 
bourhood. In a very curious old letter written by him 
to Charles Wesley, under date March 17th, 1758, he says : 
" I was glad to hear from you, but I have been abroad 
two months. I have been quite through the Man- 
chester round." He goes on to speak of numbers of 

4 8 

conversions witnessed on this journey. He must have 
visited Chester and Alpraham on this occasion. 

At the Conference of 1758, the preachers appointed 
to the Circuit were John Turnough, James Wild and 
Thomas Olivers. The two former soon disappear from 
Methodist records ; the third was a notable man, and 
an account of his life will appear in these pages. He 
describes his Circuit as including a great part of Lanca- 
shire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire. 

Some further Wesley visits are now to be described 
in his own words : — 

Monday, April 30th, 1759, We had a numerous congrega- 
tion at Acton-bridge, two or three miles from Northwich. 
Some large trees screened us both from the sun and wind. In 
the afternoon I rode to Chester. It was well the wind was 
pretty high ; for the sun shone as it uses to do in the dog-days, 

* Wednesday, May 2nd, I rode over to Mould in Flintshire, 
about twelve miles from Chester. The sun was very hot, and 
the wind very cold ; but as the place they had chosen for me, 
was exposed both to the sun and the wind, the one balanced 
with the other ; and notwithstanding the Chester Races, which 
had drawn the rich away, and the Market-day which detained 
many of the poor, we had a multitude of people, the serious 
part of whom soon influenced the rest : So that all but two or 
three remained uncovered, and kneeled down as soon as I began 
to pray. 

Thursday, 3rd, We crossed from Chester to Liverpool. 

Monday, 24th March, 1760. About noon I preached at 
Warrington. Many of the beasts of the people were present. 
But the bridle from above was in their teeth, so that they made 
not the least disturbance. At seven in the evening I preached 
at Chester ; but I was scarcely able to open my eyes. They 
were much inflamed before I set out : and the inflammation 


was much increased, by riding forty miles, with a strong and 
cold wind exactly in my face. But in the evening I applied 
the eyewater, made with lapis calaminaris, which removed the 
disorder before morning. 

Tuesday, 25th, I rode to Mould in Flintshire. The wind 
was often ready to bear away both man and horse. But the 
earnest, serious congregation rewarded us for our trouble. 

During the same year Wesley was again in the 
neighbourhood of Chester. His preachers were waiting 
for him in Conference at Bristol and through delays of 
various kinds his journey from Ireland had occupied 
more time than was anticipated. When he landed at 
Parkgate it was already time for him to be opening 
Conference and he started off for Bristol with all possible 
speed. Although he rode past the ancient City in his 
haste the following extract from the Journal is inserted 
as showing the indifference of Wesley to labour and 
expense when engagements had to be fulfilled. Much 
light is thrown also upon the conditions of travel in this 
country at the time, and upon the toils of the itinerants 
whose work is now under consideration. 

We reached Dublin on Wednesday, 20th August, 1760. I 
then inquired for a Chester ship, and found one, which was 
expected to set sail on Friday morning : but on Friday 
morning, the Captain sent us word, " He must wait for 
General Montague." So in the afternoon I rode over to 
Skerries, where the packet lay : but before I came thither, the 
wind, which was fair before, shifted to the east and blew a 
storm. I saw the hand of God, and after resting a while, rode 
cheerfully back to Dublin. It being the Watchnight, I came 
just in time, to spend a comfortable hour with the congregation. 
O how good it is, to have no choice of our own, but to leave all 
things to the will of God ! 

Saturday, 23rd, The Captain of the Chester ship sent word, 
" The General would not go, and he would sail the next 



morning." So we have one more day to spend in Ireland. 
Let us " live this day as if it were our last ! '' 

Sunday, 24th, At seven I took leave of my friends, and 
about noon embarked in the Nonpareil for Chester. We had 
forty or fifty passengers on board, half of whom were cabin 
passengers. I was afraid we should have an uneasy time, in 
the midst of such a crowd of gentry. We sailed out with a fair 
wind, but at four in the afternoon it failed, and left us in a dead 
calm. I then made the gentlemen an offer of preaching, which 
they thankfully accepted. While I was preaching the wind 
sprung up fair : but the next day we were becalmed again. In 
the afternoon they desired me to give them another sermon, 
and again the wind sprung up while I was speaking, and 
continued till about noon on Tuesday, we landed at Parkgate. 
Being in haste, I would not stay for my own horse, which I 
found could not land till low water. So I bought one, and 
having hired another, set forward without delay. We reached 
Whitchurch that evening. 

Wednesday, 27th, We breakfasted at Newport, where 
finding our horses begin to fail, we thought it best to take the 
Birmingham road, that, if they should fail us altogether, we 
might stay among our friends. But they would go no farther 
than Wolverhampton ; so we hired fresh horses there, and 
immediately set out for Worcester : but one of them soon after 
fell, and gave me such a shock (though I did not quit my seat) 
that I was seized with a violent bleeding at the nose, which 
nothing we could apply would stop, so we were obliged to go 
at a foot pace for two miles, and then stay at Broadwater. 

Thursday, 28th, Soon after we set out, the other horse fell 
lame. A honest man at Worcester found this was caused by a 
bad shoe. A smith cured this by a new shoe : but at the same 
time by paring the hoof too closely, he effectually lamed the 
other foot, so that we had hard work to reach Gloucester. 
After resting here a while, we pushed on to Newport : where I 
took a chaise, and reached Bristol before eleven. I spent the 
two following days with the preachers, who had been waiting 
for me all the week. And their love and unanimity were such 
as soon made me forget all my labours. 


One of the preachers who accompanied Wesley on 
this voyage was Nicholas Manners. 

I left Ireland (1760) in company with Mr. Wesley, my 
brother, and some other preachers, and many passengers. 
Mr. Wesley preached twice on the deck. We were fifty hours 
on our passage ; part of which time the wind was high and 
unfair ; so that the sails were often shifted to put the ship into 
different courses, which made sailing both troublesome and 
dangerous. All of us who were preachers had cabbin beds, 
for which each paid half a guinea. But notwithstanding, my 
brother and I slept two nights on the deck to preserve us from 
being sick. We lay on the boards, and covered us with 
sailcloth ; and though it was cold and hard, yet it was better 
than being sick. The morning after we landed at Parkgate, I 
took a walk in the fields, and the air was so agreeable as I had 
never perceived since I went to Ireland. The many black 
bogs in Ireland send forth such quantities of corrupted 
particles into the air, that it is unwholesome to some English 
constitutions. Contrary to my determination to desist from 
travelling, I was appointed to labour in Manchester Circuit. 
Two or three days after our landing, being alone and much 
distressed about preaching ; a stillness in and about me, which 
words cannot well describe, suddenly took place, when I heard 
a voice say, " If thou wilt pray more, thou wilt do better." 
We were four preachers in the circuit, and good was done in 
several parts of it, particularly at Manchester, which had been 
in a low condition for some time. x 

No doubt Chester was included within the territory 
assigned to Nicholas Manners and his colleagues at this 
date. The extent of the Circuit about this time appears 
from the statement of Thomas Lee : — 

The next year I was in the Manchester Round, which 
then contained Lancashire, Cheshire, part of Shropshire, and 

1 Some particulars of the Life and Experience of Nicholas Manners. 
York: printed for the Author ; and sold by R. Spence. MDCCLXXXV- 


of Wales, Staffordshire, and part of Derbyshire. Our labour 
was hard ; but # we saw much fruit of it, particularly at 
Manchester and Bolton. 1 

Chester was included in Wesley's spring journey the 
next year also. 

April ist, 1761, I left Manchester in the morning in a 
better condition than ever I knew it before : such is the 
shaking not only among the dry bones, but likewise among 
the living souls. About noon I preached at Little Leigh, and 
at Chester in the evening. 

Thursday, 2nd, I rode over to Tattenhall, eight or nine 
miles from Chester. When we came, the town seemed to be 
all in an uproar. Yet when I began preaching (in the open 
air, the house not being large enough to contain one quarter of 
the congregation) none opposed, or made the least disturbance, 
the fear of God falling upon them. I think Tattenhall will be 
less bitter for the time to come. Well may Satan be angry 
with field preaching. 

Friday, 3rd, I preached about one at Mould in 
Flintshire, and was again obliged to preach abroad though 
the wind was exceedingly rough. All were deeply attentive. 
I preached in the evening at Chester, and in the morning set 
out for Liverpool. 

This was Wesley's first visit to Tattenhall. His 
acknowledged position as a clergyman and scholar, 
together with his apt manner of handling a mob, 
availed here as in so many places to make the work 
easier for his persecuted followers. 

On April 2nd, Wesley addressed a long letter to the 
Rev. Mr. G . 

1. E.M.P IV., 162. 


Wednesday, March 30th, 1762, was a day notable 
iven to Wesley, who was no stranger to inclement 
,veather, and indifferent or hostile receptions. 

In his Journal under that date he records : — 

Having been invited to preach at Wem, Mrs. Glynne 
desired to take me thither (from Shrewsbury in a post chaise : 
but in little more than an hour, we were fast enough. 
However, the horses pulled, till the traces broke. I should 
then have walked on, had I been alone, tho' the mud was 
deep, and the snow drove impetuously : but I could not leave 
my friend. So I waited patiently, till the man had made shift 
to mend the traces. And the horses pulled amain : so that 
with much ado, not long after the time appointed, I came to 
Wem. I came, but the person who invited me was gone; 
gone out of town at four in the morning. And I could find no 
one who seemed either to expect or desire my company. I 
enquired after the place where Mr. Mather preached : but it 
was filled with hemp. It remained only to go into tbe 
market-house: but neither man, woman, nor child cared to 
follow us ; the north-wind roared so loud on every side, and 
poured in from every quarter : however, before I had done 
singing, two or three crept in, and after them, two or three 
hundred. And the power of God was so present among them, 
that, I believe, many forgot the storm. The wind grew still 
higher in the afternoon, so that it was difficult to sit our 
horses. And it blew full in our faces, but could not prevent 
our reaching Chester in the evening. Though the warning 
was short, the room was full : and full of serious, earnest 
hearers : many of whom expressed a longing desire for the 
whole salvation of God. Here I rested on Thursday. 

Friday, April ist, I rode to Parkgate and found several 
ships : but the wind was contrary. I preached at five in the 
small house they have just built: and the hearers were 
remarkably serious. I gave notice of preaching at five in the 
morning. But at half an hour after four, one brought us word 
that the wind was come fair, and that Captain Jordan would 
sail in less than an hour. 


William Crane and Francis Walker were the two 
preachers who accompanied Wesley on this occasion. 

On his return from this visit to Ireland, Wesley 
again visited Chester. 

He embarked at Dublin on Saturday, July 31st, 
1762, and preached on board the " Dorset" on the Sun- 
day morning. He tells us that his text was Prov. iii. 17, 
and that "all who were able to creep out were willingly 

Monday, August 2nd, I rode on to Chester. Never was 
the society in such a state before. Their jars and contentions 
were at an end, and I found nothing but peace and love 
among them. About twelve of them believed they were saved 
from sin, and their lives did not contradict their profession. 
Most of the rest were strongly athirst for God, and looking for 
Him continually. 

These remarks seem to indicate that Wesley had 
been cognisant of a want of harmony in the Chester 
flock, but did not record such in his Journal until the 
restoration of unity. 

The Conference of 1763 was held in IyOndon in 
July. There were twenty Circuits in England, two in 
Wales, two in Scotland, and seven in Ireland. 

It is scarcely possible at this distance of time, and with 
such scanty fragments of information which have been 
preserved, to form any adequate idea of the great labour, 
patient endurance, and painful suffering, which this work 
must have cost, to have produced such results as these. 
Twenty years only had elapsed since Wesley, with his brother 
and two or three laymen, had begun to sow the seed of the 
kingdom by means of field and itinerant preaching. Yet now, 
notwithstanding that it had been frowned on by the learned, 
persecuted by the violent, lampooned by the witty, and was at 


the same time opposed by open and violent enemies, and 
harassed by the defection of former friends, the proclamation 
of Gospel mercy had by this means been to a tolerable extent 
made through the length and breadth of the land.* 

The tenth English Circuit in the list was designated 
Chester. To some extent Chester was regarded as the 
centre of the Circuit. But where was the circumfer- 
ence ? In the list we find no Manchester, or L/iverpool, 
Cheshire, or Shropshire Circuit. A York Circuit is 
named, and also Staffordshire. In what Circuit were 
Manchester, Stockport, and L/iverpool included ? It is 
very clear that the organization was not yet fully 
developed, and was liable to sudden and large changes, 
especially in the division and arrangement of Circuits. 

In Walker's manuscript it is stated that Chester 
was made the head of a Circuit in 1763, with about 140 
members, divided into 8 classes ; also that there were 
four preachers appointed to the Circuit, three of whom 
were engaged in the country and one in the City in 
rotation. The same record declares that the Circuit 
then included Warrington, Namptwich, Northwich, 
Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Neston, and Tarporley, with 
many other places occasionally visited. 

Walker also says that John Furz was the Assistant 
appointed to the Chester Circuit at the Conference of 
1763. This is confirmed by his published Journal : — 

" Afterwards [having been employed in the York Circuit] 
I spent two years in Cheshire and Lancashire, where was the 
most rapid work of God that I ever saw. ''2 

1. Smith : History of Wesleyan Methodism, J, 318. 

2. E.M.P., V., 127. 


Here were many wild, rude people, but they were quite out- 
numbered by those who were civil and attentive : and I believe 
some impressions were made on the wildest. What can shake 
Satan's kingdom like field preaching} 

Wednesday, 18th, I should have been glad of a day of 
rest : but notice had been given of my preaching at noon, near 
Tattenhall. The rain began almost as soon as we came in : 
so I could not preach abroad as I designed, but in a large 
commodious barn, where all that were present seemed to 
receive the Word of God with joy and reverence. The 
congregation at Chester in the evening, was more numerous, 
and far more serious than the day before. There wants only 
a little more field-preaching here, and Chester would be as 
quiet as London. 


Cftc Octaaon CDapei : its erection & earip pears* 


THE year 1764 saw the erection of the first Methodist 
Chapel, strictly so called, in Chester. The barn- 
sanctuary had rendered good service for twelve years 
and still sufficed to hold the ordinary congregation ; 
but this did not preclude the hope that a larger and 
more commodious building would attract more hearers. 
The old place, moreover, was subject to the serious 
disadvantage of insecurity of tenure. The Methodists 
felt the necessity of having a good building of their 
own, and now found themselves in a position to 
undertake the responsibility of erecting one. Two of 
their number, though still comparatively young men, 
were settled in business : Mr. Thomas Bennett, 
Ironfounder; Mr. Geo. I^owe, Miller, (g) These two 
gathered sympathizers around them ; and, after the 
consideration of several sites, a large piece of ground 
was purchased on the Boughton side of the city y 
situated at no great distance from the house of Mr. 
Richard Jones in which the services had been held at 
the first. The neighbourhood has entirely changed 
since those days. There was of course no station then • 


the important thoroughfare of City Road had not been 
laid out ; the old gate at the Bars was still standing ; 
the streets now forming Newtown were unthought of. 
It is difficult to determine the exact site occupied by 
the first Chapel ; on one part of it the City Road has 
encroached, and on another part of it stands a 
Calvinistic Methodist, or Presbyterian, Chapel. Access 
to the Chapel was from Foregate, by an avenue about 
twenty five yards in length, and four or five in width, 
on each side of which were small dwellings and 
gardens. On the north side of the Chapel, the remotest 
from Foregate, a Preacher's house was built to 
accommodate the "Assistant" and a "Helper." A 
" large and pleasant garden " was attached. Chester 
must have been one of the first Circuits to make such 
good provision for the preachers. 

It was decided that the Chapel should be built in 
the form of an Octagon ; a trustworthy tradition declar- 
ing that this determination was arrived at on the strong 
recommendation of Wesley. There was at this time no 
model Chapel. The "New Chapel" in Iyondon, was 
not built till some years subsequently. At Manchester 
the Methodists had removed from the crazy old garret 
near the river, being fortunate in the fact that no 
serious accident had occurred there ; yet they had only 
erected a small building in Birchin L,ane, by no means 
worthy to be taken as a pattern for a Chapel in a 
county town. In the third edition (1770) of the Large 
Minutes of Confere?ice is the following regulation: — 
Build all preaching houses, if the ground will admit, 
in the Octagon form. is the best for the voice, and 

on many accounts more commodious than any other. — 


When this regulation was first made we cannot say ; 
but this is the first time it appeared in print. It is 
highly probable that the successful experiment at 
Chester led Wesley to make this rule, which continued 
to appear in the Large Minutes so long as he lived, 
although it was not largely observed. The Methodists 
of Chester were familiar with the octagonal form of 
architecture, for a large water tower of that shape stood 
on the old Bridge Gate. Wesley must have seen it 
when he took his walk round the Walls. It was taken 
down in 1781. The diameter of the Chester Octagon 
Chapel was forty six feet within ; a gallery was erected, 
and the entire building was estimated to seat 600 with 
comfort, and perhaps another 200 with pressure. A 
curious story is told to the effect that the leading men 
of the society wanted to have a bell in a little cupola 
which was erected on the top of the octagonal roof of 
the new* Chapel. Now the use of a bell was not lawful 
except by episcopal sanction : that was sought, and 
promised, on condition that the Bishop should preach 
the first sermon in the building. The Methodists, 
however, shrewdly suspected that this would mean 
" consecration/' and decided to forego their bell. 

The pulpit was extended in the form of a long 
elevated pew to the breadth of one of the walls of the 
Chapel. It is said that in the earliest days the leaders 
sat in this pew, the preacher standing behind the desk 
in the centre of it. 

The following seven trustees were appointed : — 
Thomas Bennett, Chester, Ironfounder. 
George L,owe, Chester, Miller. 
Richard Bruce, Acton, Northwich, Gentleman. 


Joseph Brown, Bull's Green, Tarporley, 

James Wooldridge, Duckington, Barnhill, 

John Gardner, Tattenhall L,anes, Farmer. 
Richard Barker, Acton Bridge, Northwich, 


The last named did not sign the Deed nor enter upon 
the duties of Trustee-ship. As the rule that a Trustee 
must, at the time of his appointment, be a member of 
society, did not then exist, it is probable that some 
of those whose names are mentioned were not actual 
members of the Methodist Society but sympathizers 
with its work. 

Only two of the Trustees were resident in Chester. 
Some names are absent from the list which one would 
have expected to find there; especially that of Jonathan 
Pritchard of Boughton, who must have counted for 
far more in the early Methodism of Chester than this 
book reveals. John Wesley's letters show the position 
he occupied in the founder's esteem both ten years 
before and ten years after the erection of this Chapel. 
He was the representative of the Circuit at the 
Boothbank Quarterly Meeting in 1752; His social 
position rendered it easy for him to entertain the 
preachers ; and his house came to be looked upon 
as the usual resting place of Wesley and his helpers 
in the earliest period of their work in Chester. 

Wooldridge was a very worthy man ; before he 
went to Duckington, where a considerable Society grew 
up under his fostering care, he was, it is said, a game 
keeper at Cholmondeley. L,ocal tradition has it that 


Wesley preached under a tree at Duckington, and a 
stick made from thai tree is in the possession of an 
enthusiastic Wesleyan collector. 

George IyOwe must be distinguished from his son 
George Lowe, Junior, the goldsmith, who was old 
enough before his father's death to join him upon 
the new trust formed in 1806 ; also from the Rev. 
George Iyowe. He married a heroic Methodist girl 
whose experiences are amongst the most romantic in 
the annals of local Methodism. Going back a few 
years we find a certain Mrs. Bennett and her daughter 
Mary, born in 1743, attending the services in Iyove 
I^ane and St. Martin's Ash, for two or three years, 
without seeking enrolment upon the Methodist class 
paper, because they knew how strongly the head of the 
family would disapprove. He was a sea-captain whose 
vessel traded with Cheshire cheese from Parkgate to 
London. In those days when there were no railroads 
and the highways were imperfect, this product of the 
county often reached consumers by sea. At length, 
in 1755, they took the decisive step. When Captain 
Edward Bennett, who had not forbidden his household 
to attend Methodist services, and was perhaps unaware 
of the extent to which they had done so, learnt that his 
wife and daughter had actually joined the Methodists, 
he was exceedingly angry, and determined to put a stop 
to their association with persons whom he regarded as 
deceivers or dupes. Mary was thus placed in the 
supremely difficult position of having to decide the 
right course to pursue when the duty of obedience to 
her father came into conflict with her religious con- 
victions. Her father endeavoured to convince her by 


arguments, and when that failed tried to coerce her 
by personal chastisement. Keenly as she felt the 
humiliation of her father's correction, and strong as 
was her desire to honour him she deemed it her duty to 
refuse to separate herself from Methodist fellowship. 
In the following year (1756) Captain Bennett removed 
his family to Neston, a little town about a mile inland 
from Parkgate. This residence would prove equally 
convenient for himself, and he hoped the change would 
bring the vagaries of his wife and daughter to an end. 
" There," said he, " these runagate false prophets will 
not come." Eleven miles each way should surely prove 
enough to prevent any intercourse between them and 
the Chester Methodists, and there were none of that 
body in Neston. The extraordinary powers of walking 
which Methodism developed in its first adherents did 
not enter into his reckoning, and Mary was actually 
able to put in an appearance sometimes at the five 
o'clock morning service at St. Martin's Ash. On the 
Sunday the frequent absences of the Captain left his 
family without much restraint. Twenty two miles 
however was a long distance even for early Methodists, 
and Mrs. Bennett tried to get a room for services in 
Neston so that her own religious privileges might be 
restored and Gospel preaching extended to her new 
neighbours. But no one in Neston dare harbour the 
abhorred schismatics. At length she succeeded in 
securing a small cottage at L,eighton about a mile away. 
The work there developed, and eventually L,eighton 
was put upon the plan. The unfriendly intentions of 
Captain Bennett resulted, therefore, in the extension 
of Methodist influence. The testimony which the 

6 4 

Methodists bore at I^eighton against drunkenness, 
profanity, and impurity, goaded the forces of evil into 
violent opposition. The persons most hated for their 
zeal were Mary Bennett, who did a great deal to induce 
people to attend the services, and Robert Roberts, then 
a local preacher, and afterwards a minister. It became 
known one night that this earnest brother was to 
accompany Mary Bennett to her mother's house before 
proceeding to his own home. Their way lay through 
a lonely lane by which a brook flowed. Some 
miscreants determined to waylay them and throw them 
into the water. The plot failed so far as the local 
preacher was concerned, for he returned home alone. 
The cruel men had therefore an even better opportunity 
of molesting Mary as she walked homeward in solitude. 
One man, a sailor, even less scrupulous than the others, 
pushed her into the brook, where she struggled in the 
darkness for some time and was unable to find a footing 
on the slippery sides. Happily her cries were heard by 
a Methodist friend, who hurried up in time to save her 
from drowning. The details of the assault gradually 
became known when it appeared that the delinquents 
would not be prosecuted. The neighbourhood was 
therefore greatly startled when the intelligence came 
that the reckless sailor had himself been drowned while 
on a voyage from I^ondon to Chester. 

In 1760 Mary Bennett returned to Chester to 
become, when only seventeen years of age, the wife 
of George I^owe. Throughout a long and happy life of 
more than usual duration their home was open to the 
Preachers, and their energies were employed in active 
Methodist work. So well known was their hospitality 


that their house was familiarly called the " Pilgrim's 
Inn." On the day before her death, which took place 
on June ioth, 1807, Mrs. Iyowe assured her pastor, 
Thomas Preston, of her confidence in God, saying, 
" Jesus is precious ! " x 

Thomas Bennett was born in 1732, at Christleton, a 
village within three miles of Chester. His parents 
possessed a little property and, being able to provide 
for their son's advancement in business, sent him to 
his uncle, an ironmonger of Dublin, by name Turner. 
One Sunday the young man went casually with a 
companion to hear a Methodist preacher in that city 
and was so effectually influenced that at the early age 
of seventeen he joined the Society. This was in 1749, 
the year in which Wesley paid his first visit to Alpraham 
near Chester. The shopmates of Thomas Bennett were 
mostly Romanists and hated the Methodists, whom the 
Irish populace had nicknamed " Swaddlers." Their 
persecution merely served to establish the new convert 
more firmly in the faith, and he continued a member of 
the Methodist Society in Dublin for six years. At the 
end of that time his mother died and he returned to 
England to take possession of the property which then 
fell to him. He joined the Society and, at the suggestion 
of Mr. Jonathan Pritchard, established himself as an 
ironmonger, with prospects on the whole encouraging. 
He soon afterwards (March, 1756) married a Miss Anne 
Moseley of Manchester, whose brother subsequently be- 

1. Mag. 1809. Of the introduction of Methodism into the 
neighbourhood and city of Chester ; in a Memoir of Mrs. Lowe, of 
that city, By Rev. fohn Gaulter. 


came widely known throughout Iyancashire as Sir John 
Moseley, Bart. Miss 'Moseley was awakened under the 
preaching of Whitfield, in St. Anne's Square, Man- 
chester, and was one of the first female leaders in that 
city. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett lived a very happy life 
together for many years. One of their joys they found 
in entertaining the preachers who visited Chester, their 
house also being known as a " Pilgrims' Inn." 

Thomas Bennett died on October 29th, 1803, having 
been a member of Society 54 years. The manuscript 
memoir of this good man in the old Circuit Register 
claims him as the "principal instrument of erecting the 
Octagon Chapel in Chester." His son, T. Moseley 
Bennett, Ironfounder, of Iyiverpool, supplied some of 
the materials for St. John Street Chapel. 

Thomas Bennett enjoyed in a high degree the 
favour of Wesley ; and it is evident that he shared 
Wesley's views as to the Established Church and 
belonged to the old school of Methodists. Although 
visited by several Methodist preachers shortly before he 
died, it was at the hands of the Rev. William Nelson, 
Vicar of St. Bridget's, that he received the Sacrament. 
It was not an unknown thing however, at that time, for 
a Methodist preacher to administer the Sacrament in a 
private house. Francis West did so in 1804 in the case 
of John Jones, when he lay at the point of death, in 

The Octagon Chapel was opened for divine service 
on Sunday, June 23rd, 1765. George Walker has left 
on record that the opening service was held at 5 p.m., 
and that the preacher was John Hampson. With this 

6 7 

statement agrees the following extract from Mary 
Gilbert's diary, if a liberal interpretation be given to 

the word morning. 

Sunday, June 23rd, 1765 : In the Morning we went to 

the New chapel. Mr. H opened it, his Text was in 

ii. Cor. vi, 41. [Chron .J Let thy Priests O Lord God be clothed 
with Salvation, and let thy Saints rejoice in goodness. He 
concluded with saying, that as God had given us a more 
convenient Place to worship Him in, we ought in Gratitude 
to let our Lives and Conversations be more exemplary 
than ever before. 

During the early years of Wesley's itinerancy 

Hampson was often his travelling companion ; as early 

as 1753 an entry in the Journal shows them together in 

the vicinity of Bristol. At a subsequent period he 

married a lady near of kin to a gentleman of considerable 

property in Cheshire. Here he settled for some time, 

preaching occasionally in Manchester, Chester, and 

other places for many miles round. On the title page 

of his hymn-book, issued in 1767, he is described as Mr. 

J. Hampson, near Northwich. In 1773 he was the 

leader of the class in which Mr. Joseph Janion met at 

Little Leigh. From Cheshire he came to Manchester, 

where he entered into business, but without success. 

Subsequently he rejoined the itinerancy. 1 John 

Hampson was a preacher of great force, — a Boanerges 

some called him, — he did a great deal of valuable work 

in laying the foundations of Methodism, and it is matter 

for regret that he did not remain in the ranks to the 

end of his life. In the year 1785 Wesley's Deed of 

Declaration, constituting one hundred preachers the 

1 Atmore: The Methodist Memorial. 


Conference of the people called Methodists, was 
executed and enrolled ; when its contents were disclosed 
it was seen that the names of John Hampson and his 
son were not included. This omission, from whatever 
cause arising, so grieved both father and son that they 
resigned their connection with Wesley, The elder 
Hampson became an Independent Minister ; being 
subsequently in distress through age and infirmity, and 
the inability of his own flock to help him, ^"12 per 
annum was generously allowed him out of the Preachers' 
Fund. The younger Hampson obtained ordination in 
the Established Church, and a living in Sunderland. 
He wrote the first life of Wesley, a book which was 
considered unfriendly in tone. 

At this point may be mentioned a notable book 
printed in Chester for the preacher who opened the 
Octagon Chapel. It is called : — 




collected by 

John Hampson. 

Chester : 

Printed by J. Harvie, and sold at the Printing- Office in 
Northgate-Street ; at J. Bui,kei,ey's, Bookseller in Bridge 
Street ; and by Mr. J. Hampson, near Northwich, 


6 9 

The volume will be interesting to readers of this 
history because it came forth from a Chester printing 
house. It has additional interest as being one of the 
many hymn books issued in anticipation of that 
published by Wesley in 1780. The familiar preface to 
Wesley's hymn book gives some idea of the state of 
things prevailing before he took the work in hand. 
The Societies had a beautiful hymn book entitled : 
41 Hymns and Spiritual Songs " (1753) ; an older 
" Collection of Psalms and Hymns " (1741), specially 
prepared for public service ; and " Select Hymns with 
Tunes Annext," together with many penny and two- 
penny tracts of twelve and twenty-four pages a piece, — 
a series of Hymns for the Great Festivals, occupying a 
dozen such booklets. There were in addition many 
small collections compiled by others than Wesley in 
use in various Societies. In the light of these facts it 
is not surprising to learn that Dr. Osborn's grandmother 
had to take thirteen hymn books to Chapel. Many of 
the little books contained poems not intended for 
public worship. For instance iu a very early one 
belonging to Mr. R. T. Smith is an effusion entitled 
"To a friend in love" ! We are inclined to attribute 
the premier place for size and worth among those fore- 
runners of the Wesleyan hymn book, not prepared by 
Wesley himself, to John Hampson's Chester volume. 

It was not long before Wesley, whose oversight of 
Methodism in Chester was so constant, came to rejoice 
over the completion of the new building. He had paid 
a brief visit to Chester in the spring of 1765 while the 
new Chapel was in process of erection. He waited in 
the city two days as several ships were ready to sail 


from Parkgate, but the wind continuing foul he crossed 
over to Iyiverpool* in which place he found the work in 
a very encouraging state. 

On Thursday, August 15th, 1765, Wesley rode from 
Huddersfield to Manchester for the Conference, the 
first held in that town. On Friday, 16th, he records : — 

I rode over to Chester, and preached to as many as 
the new house would well contain. We had likewise a 
numerous congregation on Saturday morning as well as 
evening. How the grace of God concurs with his Provi- 
dence ! A new house not only brings a new congregation 
but likewise (what we have observed over and over again) 
a new blessing from God. And no wonder, if every 
labour of love finds even a present reward. 

Sunday, 18th. The house contained the morning 
congregation. But in the eveniug, multitudes were 
constrained to go away. So does Truth win its way 
against all opposition, if it be steadily declared with 
meekness of wisdom. 

Of the Conference which was held on the Tuesday 
to Friday of the following week, an interesting note is 
to be found in the MS. diary of Samuel Bardsley. 

Under date Tuesday, August 20th, 1765, Bardsley 
writes : — 

The Conference begun. There were present a deal of 
preachers. Everything was carried on with decency & 
order. The Revd. Mr. Wesley came on Thursday before 
the Conference and went on Friday to Chester : preached 
there and came back on Monday & preached here every 
evening As he was going to the preaching 

something remarkable to me was his humility ; in taking 
me by the arm, & walking through the town with me. 
The Lord grant that I may be so serviceable for the 
good of Souls according to my abilities as he has been. 


The significance of the remark about Wesley's con- 
descension will be apparent to those who are aware 
of the fact that Bardsley had been previously engaged 
in a very humble occupation in Manchester. 

At the Conference of 1765, Manchester was 
included in the Lancashire Circuit, and Salop appears 
to have taken the place of Chester. The " Assistant" 
appointed to the Salop Circuit was Alexander Mather, 
and the "Helper" was William Minethorp. The 
younger preacher's course though not a long one, was 
full of honour. When he passed away in 1776 after 12 
years of service, Wesley's testimony of him was " An 
Israelite indeed in whom was no guile ! " The romantic 
career of Alexander Mather may be read in the second 
volume of the Lives of the Early Methodist Preachers. 
At the tender age of twelve he bore arms in the 
Pretender's cause on the fatal field of Culloden. He 
was afterwards hunted from pillar to post, being nearly 
drowned in the course of his wanderings, until at 
length a wise officer extended the King's clemency to 
him. Leaving his home in North Britain he came to 
England while still quite a young man and had some 
chequered experiences as a journeyman-baker in the 
Metropolis. During this period he married a fellow- 
country woman whom he met in London. He heard 
Nelson and Wesley preach, and after much travail of 
soul came to the light. Ere long he became a preacher, 
and in 1756 was invited to enter upon the itinerant 
work ; but as no provision was forthcoming for Mrs. 
Mather he was compelled to decline. In the next 
year four shillings a week was promised for the wife's 
maintenance, and the pair were appointed to Epworth ; 


the distance between which place and I^ondon, about 
150 miles, they covered on foot. Mrs. Mather was the 
first preacher's wife to receive regular maintenance from 
a Circuit. 

On Wednesday, April 2nd, 1766, Wesley says : — 

We rode through heavy rain [from Manchester] to 
Chester. Friday, 4th, I visited a poor woman, who has 
been ill eight years, and is not yet weary nor faint in her 
mind. A heavy-laden sinner desired to receive the 
Sacrament with her, and found rest to her soul; and 
from that hour increased every day in the knowledge and 
love of God. 

On the occasion of his visits in 1765 and 1766 Wesley 
made his home with a West Indian family named 
Gilbert, newly arrived in the city. The position Mr. 
Francis Gilbert occupied in Wesley's confidence appears 
from the Minutes for 1765. In reply to the question — 
What are the Rules relating to the Preachers' Fund ? — 
the answer is — I^et an exact account of all receipts and 
disbursements be produced at the yearly Conference, 
by Francis Gilbert, Secretary. The opinion the great 
preacher entertained of Mary Gilbert, the niece ot 
Francis Gilbert, is quoted a little lower down. The 
presence of this family in Chester calls for some 
explanation. A number of facts are here brought 
together which it is hoped will prove of interest to 
students of early Methodism. 

Francis Gilbert was the second son of the Hon. 
Nathaniel Gilbert, of the Island of Antigua. The 
Gilberts had been among the first settlers in that 
Island, and considered themselves descendants of Sir 
Humphrey Gilbert, the great Elizabethan navigator. 


Francis Gilbert was early placed by his father in a large 
mercantile concern in St. John's, where he was speedily 
ruined by a dishonest clerk, whose malpractices were 
facilitated, it is to be feared, by the gay habits of his 
young superior. 

Not daring to face his father, Francis Gilbert fled 
first to Jamaica and then to England. In this country 
he was introduced, with the happiest results, to the 
Wesleys, was brought to God, and became a member of 
the Methodist Society. He "was for a short time a 
travelling preacher in their connexion, and until his last 
long illness prevented, he remained a local preacher." 

Francis Gilbert wrote of his new found faith to his 
elder brother Nathaniel, who was Speaker of the House 
of Assenibty in Antigua, and sent him some of John 
Wesley's publications. The impressions produced by 
these brought Nathaniel Gilbert and his wife to 
England in 1757. Wesley's Journals show that they 
lived in Wandsworth, and declare the grace of God as 
seen in their household. 

In 1759 Nathaniel Gilbert and his wife returned 
to Antigua, accompanied by a widowed lady, Mrs. 
Eeadbetter, who afterwards married Francis Gilbert. 
They were much blessed in their labours in St. John's 
and were privileged to found Methodism in this 
beautiful West Indian Island. Mrs. Eeadbetter was 
a notable lady, as the following pamphlet shows : 
Memoirs of the late Mrs. Mary Gilbert, with some account 
of her husband Mr. Francis Gilbert, seco?id son of the 
Honourable Natha?iiel Gilbert of Antigua. In a letter to 


the Rev. Mr. Benson. By Henrietta F. Gilbert [Her niece. ~\ 
London, 1817, Prihted by Thomas Cordeux, 14, City Road. 
Sold by T Blanshard, 14, City Road ; and at the 
Methodist Preaching Houses in Town and Country. 

She was born on the twenty-fourth of February 
1733, and was married in 1750 to a gentleman twice her 
own age, by name I^eadbetter. She was converted in 
1753 under C. Wesley. Her husband passed away in 
October 1758, having previously come under good 
Methodist influences. Soon after the death of her 
husband she made the acquaintance of Mr. Nathaniel 
Gilbert and his wife "who had come to England two 
years before on a religious account, and were about to 
return to Antigua, their native place; intending to 
propagate the knowledge of that Gospel they had 
become more fully instructed in, under the ministry of 
the Messrs. Wesleys ; and wishing to be accompanied 
by one or two equally zealous in the best of causes."' 
Mrs. I^eadbetter was successfully engaged in religious 
work in Antigua for three years. At the end of that 
period, in 1762, she returned to England and was 
associated with the leaders of the Methodist movement. 

It is recorded that the Wesleys entertained the 
highest opinion of her. Charles Wesley spoke of her 
in very high terms to a lady friend, who subsequently 
declared : "Mrs. L,eadbetter is all you represented her 
to be." When Francis Gilbert contemplated making 
her his wife he consulted his father in the Gospel, John 
Wesley, who replied : " No man in his senses can 
object to her." 

In 1 76 1 the Hon. Nathaniel Gilbert died and left 
over ^40,000 to his eldest son. Francis was entirely 


disinherited, the alienation brought about by his 
early misconduct unhappily remaining. In 1762 Mrs. 
Leadbetter returned from Antigua. Francis Gilbert 
remained there till 1764. Then he too came back to 
England, and when he is next heard of he is at the 
little town of Kendal, in Westmoreland, with Mrs. 
Leadbetter was a member of his household and several 
children of the elder brother resident with him. The 
family removed in 1765 to Chester. It will be shown 
how in that year they were twice privileged to entertain 
Wesley : in April at Kendal ; in August at Chester. 

It is well-known that Wesley's Journals by no 
means tell the whole story of his work. Not only are 
there gaps in the records, but many visits are summed 
up in a few words that give us little idea of the amount 
of work actually done at the places mentioned. There 
are many means of filling up these deficiencies in some 
measure ; most valuable are the references in contem- 
porary diaries. The diary of Miss Mary Gilbert is a 
notable case in point ; she gives the texts of at least 
nine sermons not mentioned in the Journal. 

For instance, Wesley writes : — 

April nth, 1765. We rode on to Francis Gilbert's at 
Kendal, where there is now a real work of God. 

Mary Gilbert, writing under the same date says : — 

At noon, we had the pleasure of the Rev. Mr. Jno. Wesley's 
Company to Dinner; and in the Evening he preached on Jer. 
viii, 22 — Is there no balm in Gilead, etc. His Conversation 
was very edifying, and God blest it to my poor Soul. 

Of the next day she records : — 

At Five in the Morning, Mr. Wesley preached on Psalms 
lxxxiv, 1. — How amiable, etc. At Night we took leave of him. 

7 6 

The reason for the removal of Mr. Francis Gilbert 
and his family party from Kendal to Chester can only 
be conjectured ; possibly it was undertaken for the 
educational benefit of his nieces ; possibly Wesley had 
enlisted his sympathy with the opportunities and 
necessities of the Chester Society with respect to their 
large new Chapel then nearly finished. 

The journey, and first impressions of Chester are 
vividly described by Mary Gilbert : — 

Sunday, May 5th, 1765, My Uncle met the Society [at 
Kendal] and informed them of his being to leave them soon. 
The Sorrow that sat on every Countenance would have drawn 
Tears from any ones Eyes, who could in the least sympathize 
with another's Grief. 

Tuesday, June 4th, We were called up at half an Hour 
after One, and at a quarter past Two, set out on our Journey 
to Chester. When we came near Lancaster, our Coachman 
had like twice to have overturned us. At seven we breakfasted 
there, at one dined at Preston, and at Nine in the Evening 

reached Mr. A 's House in Warrington. We soon got to 

Bed truly fatigued, and I slept till six in the Morning, without 
ever waking, or moving out of the posture I laid myself in 
when I went to Bed. 

About eight on Wednesday Morning, we set out again, 
and had a delightful Journey the rest of the way to Chester, 
where we arrived about Noon. In the Afternoon we took a 
Walk round the Walls. You have here an extensive Prospect 
of a fine open Country, far unlike the Barren Kendal Mountains. 
We then walked to the Dock, and from thence to the Preaching 
House. Mr, G [uilfor] d preached. 

Monday, 10th, In the Afternoon we went to see the 
Infirmary. Every Thing is neat and clean about it. 

Thursday, 13th, In the Afternoon I set out with my Uncle, 
Aunt, Mrs. Leadbetter, and some other Friends, to go to a 
little Village called Crislington [now called Christleton, though 
still pronounced by the country people in accordance with the 


old spelling] about two Miles out of the Town, where my 
Uncle was to preach. We had a very pleasant walk, and went 
to see the delightfullest, tho' oddest contrived Garden that I 
ever saw. The Owner of it is the Rector of that Place, but 
one would think by the manner of his laying it out, that he had 
very little else to think of. Some Part of it represents a Field 
of Battle, a General's Tent, with Cannons all round it, a 
Mount, a Tower, a Draw-Bridge, and every thing to resemble a 
Camp of Soldiers. The other Parts of the Garden are laid out 
in the same peculiar Taste. 

The reference to Mr. Gilbert's preaching at 
Christleton when he had been a fortnight in the 
neighbourhood may point a moral not unneeded in 
modern Methodism. With what promptitude did these 
good folks find out the sanctuary in the City to which 
they had travelled ! How little time did they waste in 
finding a place in the new Society ! 

Tuesday, 18th, Mr. B [ennet] t persuaded my Aunt, Mrs. L., 
Miss H., and myself to go to his Class, which we did upon his 
promising not to speak to us. 

This last phrase has a curiously modern ring about 

The details given by the authoress with respect to 
the opening service of the Octagon Chapel on June 
23rd, 1765, have been quoted already. 

Another very interesting passage in her Journal 
reads as follows : — 

Thursday, June 29th, In the Afternoon we went with Mr. 

and Mrs. B 1 to Eaton by Water, to see Lord Grosvenor's 

Seat. We had a Parcel of Obstinate Men in the Boat, who 
knew nothing of the Sea, and yet would have their Own Way, 
which rendered what might have been otherwise pleasant, very 
disagreeable. The Gardens are extremely pleasant, and far 


surpass any Thing I have ever seen. My mind was fixt on 
God, while I was in the Boat, and I had such a confidence in 
Him, that I dont know I felt Fear arise once the whole Time. 

Not long after their removal to Chester, the family- 
was again privileged to entertain the great evangelist. 
To the particulars already given of Wesley's visit to 
Chester just before the Manchester Conference of 1765 
the following may be quoted from Miss Gilbert. 

Friday, August 16th, We had the pleasure of the Rev. Mr. 
John Wesley's Company to Tea, and in the evening he 
preached on ii. Cor. vi. 2, Now is the accepted time : now is 
the day of salvation. 

Sunday, 18th, In the morning Mr. Wesley preached on 
Mark ix. 23. My Soul was exceedingly blest. He seemed to 
speak as exactly to my State, as if I had mentioned it to him. 

Mary Gilbert records the farewell sermon of 
Mr. M[ather] on Aug. 21st, 1765, and the first sermon 
of the New Assistant, Mr. J[ohnson], "I think him a 

good?" preacher ; but I cannot yet give up Mr. M for 

any other." Several references are made to her sorrow 
in losing Alexander Mather ; happily however the new 
preacher was able to win her regard, for a subsequent 
entry reads : — 

Mr. J n dined with us this Day ; I think he is one of 

the most agreeable men I know. 

Thursday, Oct. 10th. This Day being the quarterly 
Meeting, we had a number of strange Preachers in Town ; 

and in the Evening one Mr. S 1 preached. He is not a 

very connected preacher, but one of the most lively and power- 
ful that I ever heard. 

Shortly after this Mary Gilbert acted as bearer at 
the interment of a young friend of hers which took 
place at Trinity Church. It would be interesting to 


know whether it was a usual thing in those days for 
young women to serve in that capacity at the funerals 
of the young. 

The visit of Wesley to Chester in the Spring of 
1766 is passed over very slightly in his Journal, as 
already mentioned. He makes no record of preaching 
at all ; from Miss Gilbert we learn that he preached 
six sermons, administered the Sacrament, and held a 
Love Feast. 

Her words are : — 

Wednesday, April 2nd, 1766. The Rev. Mr. Wesley gave 
us his Company to Tea, and afterwards preached on Rom. 
vm > 33» 34- I found my mind very wandering. The next 
evening he preached again on John v, 8, 9. I found a 
Blessing this Evening though I sought it not as I ought. O 
what a good God is ours ! 

Friday, 4th. I was also much blessed in the Evening 
while Mr. Wesley was preaching on these words, Isa. xvii, 9 — 
This is eternal life, etc. Should be John xvii, 3.] 

Saturday, 5th. I found the word very sweet in the 
Evening while Mr. Wesley was inforcing the Words, Matt, ix, 5. 

Sunday, 6th. This morning I found my desires very 
earnest for the blessing while Mr. Wesley was preaching on 
Isaiah xxxv, 8 — And a higlizvay shall be there, and a way, etc. 
And also afterwards while he was administering the Sacra- 
ment. In the Evening, I was again encouraged to come to 
the Lord while Mr. Wesley was inviting us to come and drink 
of the water of life freely, but still I had not Power to accept 
the invitation. We had afterwards a comfortable Love Feast. 

Things were quieter in Chester in the time of the 
Gilberts than they were in the days of the St Martin's 
Ash riot ; nevertheless that the lawless elements were 


not entirely under control appears from the following 

entry : — 

Thursday, Dec. 25th, 1766. Being Christmas-Day. In the 
Evening my Uncle preached with much Life and Power, on 
Luke ii, 10 — Behold I bring you good Tidings of great Joy. 
The Enemy stirred up the Mob to make a disturbance while 
we were singing the last hymn; but in spite of them, we con- 
cluded singing, and after waiting some Minutes they were 
dispersed, and we returned Home in Peace. 

A sermon on the evening of Christmas Day or Good 
Friday would seem very strange to Methodists of the 
present time. It must be remembered that at the 
period of Miss Gilbert's Diary the Methodists did not 
hold service during Church hours ; and that, apart from 
the occasional visits of their founder, they were 
dependent upon the ministrations of the Established 
Church for the Sacraments. Mary Gilbert mentions 
attending the Cathedral, St Werburgh's, St John's, and 
T*rinity, Churches for the purpose of receiving the 
Sacrament of the Iyord's Supper. 

On the seventeenth of November, 1767, the two 
friends of Wesley, Francis Gilbert and Mrs L/eadbetter 
were united in matrimony at Chester, Mary Gilbert 
thus mentions the event in her diary : — 

On this day were united, My Uncle F. and my truly dear 
and respected friend Mrs. M.L. With unspeakable pleasure I 
embraced her, as a most dear loved Relative. With the same 
satisfaction she was received by those of my Aunts, who 
reside in this place, as their Sister ; and I doubt not will be by 
those who are now absent, when they hear the surprising 
Tidings. My Heart's Desire and Prayer to God for them is, 
that they may be long blest with each other ; that this Union 
may be a Means of uniting them more closely to the blessed 


bridegroom of the Church; and that finally, they may be 
received into the Family of Heaven, with a Well done good 
and faithful Servants, enter ye into the Joy of your Lord. 

The happy translation to the home above came 
very soon to the writer of this prayer, for on January 
2 1 st, 1768, Mary Gilbert passed away at the early age of 
17. After her death Francis Gilbert removed to 
Whitchurch (Salop) where Alice Gilbert, a younger 
sister of Mary died in 1772, also in her minority. 
A pamphlet was published relating to Alice, entitled : — 
A short account of the life and death of Miss Alice Gilbert 
who died August 27 7772 in the nineteenth year of her age. 
London Pri?ited by R Hawes, in Lamb Street, facing 
Crispin Street, near the Market in Spital Fields, iyyj- 

Nathaniel Gilbert died suddenly in 1774, in great 

Christian confidence, leaving behind him in St John's, 

Antigua, a Methodist Society of sixty members. At this 

point Francis Gilbert took up his residence there and 

engaged in Christian work until medical advice 

sent him to England in 1775. There he renewed his 

association with English Methodism and was a member 

of Mr Fletcher's class at Madeley ; the four names upon 

the good Vicar's book being John Fletcher, Mary 

Fletcher, Francis Gilbert and George Perks. Francis 

Gilbert died on the first of July 1779. His widow 

survived him for many years. The decade from 1781 

to 1 791 she spent in Antigua, being abundant in labours 

for the good of the people. She returned to England 

just too late to see the aged John Wesley. After a year 

in Bristol she came to L,ondon in 1792, was associated 

in succession with several L,oudon Chapels, and passed 

away at an advanced age April 21, 1816, being cherished 



to the last by the niece who wrote the Memoirs referred 
to on page 73. ° 

Tyerman mentions some other members of this 
devoted family. The third daughter of Nathaniel 
Gilbert, Mrs. Yates, died a death as blessed as that of 
Mary and Alice. His son Nicholas was for years a 
faithful minister of Christ. 1 

The honoured name of Nathaniel Gilbert was borne 
by another son. This young man was educated in 
England and after having visited Antigua came back to 
England ; settled in the parish of Madeley ; enjoyed 
the advantages of Fletcher's ministry and counsels ; 
and devoted himself to God. On receiving episcopal 
ordination, the places of his ministerial labour were 
Bristol, Iyondon, Budworth, Sierra Leone, Aveley, and 
Bledlow. He was an eminently good and useful man ; 
and peacefully fell asleep in Jesus, in 1807, in the forty- 
sixth year of his age. 2 

"As late as the year 1864, Fletcher's clerical 
successor in the Madeley vicarage was the great 
grandson of Nathaniel Gilbert, and testified that he had 
reason to believe that no child or grand child of the 
first West Indian Methodist had passed away without 
being prepared for the better world ; and that almost 
all of them had been even distinguished among 
Christians for their earnest devotion to the Divine 
Redeemer." 3 

1. John Wesley II. 299. 

2. John Wesley II. 200. 

3. Wesley's Designated Successor, 513. 


At the Iyeeds Conference of 1766 the designation of 
Salop which had been introduced into the " Minutes " 
the previous year was dropped and Cheshire reinstated, 
with T. Johnson and Parson Greenwood as the 
Preachers. The former was thirty-three years old 
when he gave himself up to the work of preaching ; 
despite this late beginning he was privileged to spend 
forty-five years about his Master's business, passing 
away at a ripe old age on Oct. 18, 1797. 

A brief obituary notice of him states :— 

He was a lively zealous preacher, and his manner of 
preaching was peculiar to himself. In the early part of his 
ministry he suffered much from cruel and unreasonable men ; 
but as he never shrunk from the cross of his Divine Master, so 
the Lord never failed to deliver him. Though he was no 
stranger to affliction, yet he delighted in his work, and took 
cheerfully his part thereof, when not absolutely disabled. He 
was a faithful and affectionate fellow-labourer ; a plain honest 
man. He lived agreeable to what he preached, and in a 
glorious manner closed a peaceful and useful life. 

To the second preacher also was granted the 
blessing of long years in the work; he returned to 
Chester in 1789 as the Superintendent. 

The Conference of 1767 was held in L,ondon and 
again the Cheshire preachers were changed, the newly 
appointed ones being Thomas Taylor and Mosley 

The life and experiences of Thomas Taylor are fully 
described in the fifth volume of the Lives of the Early 
Methodist Preachers. This sturdy Yorkshireman was 
born in 1738 and entered the work in 1761. Though 
but a novice he was immediately appointed to Wales as 
the sole travelling preacher for the Principality. At the 

8 4 

time of his appointment to Chester he had served in 
Scotland and -Ireland as well as Wales. He survived 
Wesley, took an active part in the proceedings of 
the anxious Conferences succeeding the death of the 
founder of Methodism, and remained in harness nearly 
up to the time of his death in 1816. 

The following extracts from his Journal relate to 
the period of his residence in Chester : — 

My next remove was to Chester, where a change took 
place of such consequence to me, that I should be wanting in 
gratitude to a kind Providence if I passed it over in silence. I 
found it was expedient for me to marry, but it appeared a 
matter of great importance. Only two things in all my life 
gave me greater concern ; namely, my acceptance with God, 
and my call to preach. What I wanted was, a person of 
grace, of good understanding, of a good natural disposition, 
(for my own is violent) and one who had been well educated. 
I had contracted an acquaintance with one while in the city of 
Cork, in whom I had reason to believe the above properties 
met ; she was descended from an eminent French Protestant 
family, whose grandfather, among many others, had fled from 
the rage of Louis XIV., and had left his estate behind, only 
taking what effects he could carry along with him. She was 
early bereaved of her father, and not long after of her mother. 
My great objection was, the bringing of a person of her delicate 
constitution into such a way of life as she must expect if she 
became my wife. This I feared would be more than her 
spirits could bear. Besides I found a great aversion to bring 
any more burdens upon the societies ; for she was left an 
orphan, and her affairs were very ill managed. Yet, believing 
it to be the will of God, I at length ventured upon this import- 
ant step ; for which I have abundant reason to bless God, and 
hope I shall do it for ever. 

Writing in later life to defend his brethren against 
the aspersions of some who accused them of making 


money out of Methodism, he refers to his own ex- 
periences as typical of the poverty of the early itinerants. 
Indeed his argument goes to show that, poor as he was, 
he was not so poor as some who had absolutely no 
means of their own. The whole passage is most 
striking, telling as it does of the almost incredible lack 
of provision made for the pioneer preachers of the 
heroic age of Methodism ; but only the passage relating 
to Chester can be given here. 

In 1767 I left Scotland, being appointed for Chester. I 
bought a horse out of my own pocket, nor do I remember any- 
thing that I had for travelling expenses. When I came to 
Chester, my property amounted to six guineas. Judge now 
how rich I had become, after near seven years of hard toil and 
labour. In Chester I married a wife with a little property, the 
greatest part of which I have lost by a person breaking. From 
Chester we were appointed for Dublin, and had two guineas 
to take us thither. 

I will further add, for twenty years, what I have 
received for preaching has not kept my family with food ; and 
I can assure my reader, we do not keep an extravagant table. 

Concerning Mosley Cheek, the "Helper" at this 
time there is little than can be said. The following 
extract from the diary of a good man who afterwards 
became a travelling preacher gives us a glimpse of his 
work : — 

That evening Mr. Cheek preached in the Methodist meet- 
ing, and desired any who chose to stay at the meeting of the 
society. I gladly accepted the invitation. In his exhortation 
he said, If any desired to join the Society, they might speak to 
some one who knew them, and they should be admitted on 
trial. As I longed to be joined to them, I spoke to Mr. J., 
and was that night admitted. 

The Rev. Melville Home, who related many 
anecdotes illustrative of the character of his friend, 


Fletcher of* Madeley, mentions the ministry of 
Mr. Cheek in the Chester Circuit: — 

In the contests of humility, kindness, and affection, it 
was impossible to surpass Mr. Fletcher. On one occasion, 
the Rev. Mosley Cheek had been preaching in his parish ; 
and, on their way home to Madeley, in a dark night, and along 
a deep, dirty road, Mr. Fletcher carefully held the lantern to 
Mr. Cheek, while he himself walked through the mire. Mr. 
Cheek made fruitless attempts to take the lantern from him ' r 
Mr. Fletcher replying to his protests, " What, my brother, 
have you been holding up the glorious light of the Gospel, and 
will you not permit me to hold this dim taper to your feet ? " 1 

Mary Gilbert, writing about five weeks before her 
death, says, — 

Sunday, December 13th, 1767, Mr. C[hee]k preached a 
Sermon on these awful Words, Rev. vi. 17, For the great day 
of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand. 

When Wesley visited Chester during the term of 
Taylor and Cheek he found his friends the Gilberts in 
sore bereavement, for it was very shortly after the sad 
decease of Mary Gilbert already referred to. His 
words are : — 

Saturday, April 2nd, 1768, I preached at Little Leigh, and 
in the evening at Chester. At eight in the morning (Easter 
Day) I took my old stand, in the little Square at St. Martin's 
Ash. The people were as quiet as in the House. While I 
stayed here, I corrected Miss Gilbert's Journal, a masterpiece 
in its kind. What a prodigy of a child ! Soon ripe, and soon 
gone ! 

Wesley says that her reflections, which are very 
freely interspersed through the Journal, 

are always just, frequently strong and affecting, particularly 
those on death, or the shortness of life, especially from the 

1. Tyerman: Wesley's Designated Successor. 


mouth of a child. And the language wherein they are ex- 
pressed, although plain and altogether unstudied, is yet pure 
and terse in the highest degree — yea, frequently elegant ; such 
as the most polite either of our lawyers or divines would not 
easily alter for the better. (H) 

Thomas Taylor, the Chester preacher at the time 
of her decease, says : — 

Here I became acquainted with that amiable pattern to 
all young females, I mean Miss Gilbert, who was born in the 
West Indies, and came to England to finish her education, 
and also to finish her life in the bloom of her days. She kept 
a daily journal for several years ; at the age of seventeen, 
a fever sent her to Abraham's bosom. I visited her in her 
illness, and was therefore a witness of that sweet resignation 
and consolation with which she was favoured. At the request 
of her friends I preached a funeral sermon on the occasion of 
her death from the affecting words of our Saviour, Luke xxiii. 
28: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for 
yourselves, and for your children. The chapel was much 
crowded, and the congregation much affected. I printed the 
sermon, which I hope has been a word in season to many a 
troubled soul. 

The piety of this remarkable family ; their intimate 
connection with John Wesley ; and the valuable work 
they accomplished in Chester during their comparative- 
ly brief residence in the City, appear in a volume 
entitled : — Spiritual Letters by Several Eminent 
Christians. Chester. — Printed by Read and Huxley, ijbj. 

The volume contains within the compass of 232 
pages some seventy letters, about thirty of them being 
from the pen of the excellent widow, Mrs. Mary I,ead- 
better, whom Francis Gilbert married. 


The Editor's preface is well worth quotation. 
Most of the following Letters were wrote by a Gentle- 
woman. Her style is easy, and elegant : I think not unlike, 
and equal to the late reverend Mr. Hervey. The matter of 
them is excellent, and I know very few, though multitudes have 
been published, that are to be compared with them. At the 
time of her writing these Letters, I may presume, it was far 
from her thoughts that they would ever appear in public ; and 
were it left now to herself, I suppose, her exceeding great 
modesty would prevent the world from profiting by them. 
What is very extraordinary in this Lady, she writes all her 
Letters, let them be ever so long, fair at once without the 
advantage of a rough Draught ; and withal so correct, that 
when she has finished them, they need little or no amendment ; 
and as free as if she were writing from a copy. Her friends 
cannot but admire the beauty of her language, the spirit of 
devotion, the justness of sentiments, and prodigious depth of 
Divinity that run through all her Letters ; though she has too 
mean an opinion of herself to imagine that anything excellent 
or worthy public notice can proceed from her. However, be 
that as it will, the Reader shall judge for himself; and if he's 
religiously disposed, I doubt not but that he will be as much 
edified as agreeably entertained. As the Lady is still living, 
and the book will probably fall into her hands, the Editor is 
constrained to check his pen, lest in saying too much in com- 
mendation of her performances, he should offend her whom he 
very highly esteems, and should seem to flatter, which is very 
far from his intention ; tho' he could wish to have the liberty 
of saying something of her character, wich is truly an amiable 
one, and worthy of all her sex, both young and old to copy 
after. A few of these Letters were also wrote by 

a Clergyman of extraordinary piety [John Fletcher] who has 
been and still is a faithful labourer in the Lord's vineyard. 

One or two of Mrs. Iyeadbetter's letters are 
here given. The first in the volume is to Miss L,. H. 
In all probability this is the same young lady as 


the Miss H. mentioned in Mary Gilbert's Diary. 

Dear Miss, 

I am encouraged to the liberty I am about to take, by the 
obliging freedom with which you spoke of the state of your 
mind, at Mr. G's in your late illness; and which, together 
with your serious inquiry into some particular points of Mr. 
Wesley's doctrine, has made me to hope, that you will make 
an impartial search into this important matter : and I have 
since earnestly pray'd, that when and where-ever you find the 
Pearl of gieat Price, you may be enabled to purchase it. 
Thus has iafinite wisdom made happiness [holiness] the only 
way to happiness ; and yet it is a narrow way, the way of holi- 
ness, and will admit of no turning aside. Now the religion 
which the Methodists profess, without a multiplicity of words 
(which only tends to puzzle the enquirer), may be thus ex- 
plained : that n order to attain everlasting life, we must first 
know ourselves to be lost helpless sinners, both originally and 
actually, and tun to God by true repentance ; after which we 
must receive the knowledge of salvation by the remission of 
our sins, and then press forward after holiness, which is the 
mark of our high calling in Christ Jesus. And all this is 
not effected by our »wn strength ; for of ourselves we are not 
sufficient so much as to think a good thought; it is only by 
the power and grace of the holy spirit of God, which our 
Saviour assures us in the nth Chapter of St. Luke, and the 
13th verse, he will no nore with-hold from those who pray for 
it, than an earthly paren> would deny any necessary gift from 
his child when asked for h. I have made free to select and 
offer for your consideration a few among many other texts of 
Scripture, which, to my apprehension, incontestibly prove these 
divine truths ; and as the geat day of our Lord hasteneth 
apace and our lives upon eartl are as a shadow, so soon they 
pass away, and we are gone,! trust the weightiness of this 
concern will plead my excuse, who am, with the utmost 
sincerity and respect, Dear Miss, 

Your affecthnate humble servant, 

M. L. 


The eighth letter in the volume is as follows : — 

To the Reverend Mr. J. W., 

Rev. Sir, 
I received with great pleasure the favour of your kind 
permission to write to you ; a liberty I should have taken 
before, had not a consideration of your many engagements, 
and the fear of intruding upon your valuable time prevented 
me. I was the more desirous of this privilege that I might 
have an opportunity of removing from yotr mind, the doubt 
that seemed to be conceived of my not retaining the affection- 
ate respect for you that I once profest, and which I now beg 
leave to inform my honoured minister is not, nor ever has been 
in the least diminished. It is true, I hive experienced many 
vicissitudes, have sympathized in the perplexities of the 
church, and known the plague of mr own heart, yet by a 
miracle of supporting grace, have never lost my shield or 
varied from the truths you preach, ;nd which I may without 
boasting say, I received in the love thereof, and not as the 
word of man, but as it really is, tie word of God, which I 
experienced to be productive of spiritual life to my soul. In 
whatever part of the world I lave been cast, I can with 
truth aver that I have expressed myself to others, esteemed 
you, and offered up my prayers for you, as my pastor and 
spiritual father. Such, Rev. Sir, have been invariably my 
sentiments regarding myself h this relation to you : I have 
been induced to acquiesce (by Mr. Gr.'s appointment) in endea- 
vouring to be as useful as »ossible among the little flock in 
this place, of which I have tne happiness to acquaint you there 
is an increase, and among whom at present subsist much life 
and simplicity. The grext shepherd exemplifies his love by 
many encouragements ; ne unites his children's hearts to me, 
so that some who were greatly averse to meeting with me at 
first, seem to love rre exceedingly, having experienced the 
divine presence in th« midst when we assemble in his name. 
I trust, Rev. Sir, .'o be assisted by your prayers : I shall 
always pay the utmost deference to your orders and rules, and 

steem a line froir you in some leisure moments among some 


of my highest satisfactions and temporal indulgences. That 

many years of uninterrupted health may be added to you, 

Rev. Sir, and that all the present and eternal blessings of the 

new covenant may crown and reward your successful labours, 

is the sincere prayer of, Rev. Sir, your affectionate tho' 

unworthy daughter in the gospel, 

M. L. 

The letters of Mrs. Leadbetter were written from 
various places, some from Kendal, some from London, 
some from Antigua, and some from Chester. The one 
just quoted has no date and no heading, but in all 
probability it was written from Chester. The twenty- 
seventh letter in the volume is headed — 

Chester, Nov. 15th, 1765. 
To the Reverend Mr. J. W. 
Reverend Sir, 

The extensive usefulness of your valuable life, renders its 
continuance with the addition of health, a circumstance of 
such importance to the Church, that it must be the continual 
prayer, and earnest wish of all that are so happy, as to have 
been brought under the joyful sound of your ministry. Permit 
me, Rev. Sir, who am the least, and perhaps the most unfaith- 
ful that ever enjoyed so high a privilege, to assure you, that 
my heart is truly interested therein, that my prayers are daily 
offered to the throne of mercy on this behalf, and that with 
great solicitude and sincerity, and because I believe there 
subsists a mutual, tho' inexplicable sympathy and affection 
between a spiritual father, and the children that are given him 
by the Lord. I take the liberty of intruding myself upon your 
memory, to give you some account of my state, and to intreat 
a continuance of your prayers. I hope I may with humility, 
and just abasement of myself before God, inform you that his 
work lias for some months been reviving in my soul, and that 
my heart is indeed athirst for that holiness, without which I 
am convinced, I cannot either fully enjoy God in this life, or 
dwell in his beatific presence in eternity. Sometimes I have 


been permitted to such sweet communion and near access, 
and so enabled to plead the promises, that I have well nigh 
imagined, that I was just entering into the good land: But 
to my grief and surprise, I have also found my corruption more 
lively and powerful than ordinary. The grand adversary has 
thrust at me sore, and 4 my soul has endured severe conflicts; yet 
I still believe it is for good, and am willing to conclude that the 
rage of Satan is a token that his power is of short duration, 
and that ere long the captain of my salvation will bruise him 
under my feet ; though he would often persuade me that he 
shall prevail, and that I shall never be wholly delivered from 
his yoke : At such seasons I go on heavily, but soon the 
Lord breaks (the force of this fsuggestion, by lifting up the 
light of his countenance, and then I urge on my way with 
strength renewed. O how sweet will the rest of perfect love 
appear to my weary longing soul Help me, dear Sir, by 
your prayers, to seize the inestimable prize. 

The Lord is graciously pleased to bless me in the little 
labour of love which his providence and your appointment has 
engaged me in. The souls of these seem to prosper: One 
among them has received a clear manifestation of pardoning 
love, and some are seeking this goodly pearl with great 
earnestness, and these that have believed through grace are 
in a measure pressing forward. May this and every part oi 
the vineyard which has been bless'd with your ministry, and 
nourish'd by your care, be your comfort and crown of rejoic- 
ing in that happy day, when labour shall be exchanged for un- 
interrupted repose, the cross for the victorious palm, and an 
admittance into the joy of our Lord reward all your toil, and 
end the dubious strife of, Rev. Sir, 

Your affectionate daughter in the Gospel. 

M. L. 

The forty -fourth letter in the collection was 
probably written from Chester ; for in it Mrs. L,ead- 
better seems to refer to her forthcoming marriage 


which, as already mentioned, took place in that city : — 

To the Rev. Mr. J. W. 
Rev. Sir, 

I have often felt a grateful sense of the divine goodness, in 
instructing the children of men in that pleasing art, which so 
alleviates the pain of absence, and compensates for the loss of 
the agreeable and profitable converse of those we particularly 
esteem and regard, by enabling us to maintain an intercourse, 
while at the greatest distance, which though imperfect, is 
productive of much satisfaction, and frequently answers many 
valuable purposes : And as I highly prize this privilege, especi- 
ally in your correspondence, I could not but be sensibly 
concerned at the loss of your last favour ; and the more so, 
as I flattered myself that as a father to his child, you would 
have spoke your sentiments freely upon the important step I 
have been influenced (I trust by the divine guidance) to take ; 
which if approved of, would have afforded me great pleasure ; 
but as that failed in coming to hand, I could wish to intrude 
upon your golden moments for that indulgence to be repeated - T 
and am more abundantly anxious, Mr. G. having been inform- 
ed by Mr. F of your indisposition, from which we truly desire 
to hear you are perfectly recovered. O that your days may 
be prolonged, that the pleasure of the Lord may prosper in 
our hands, and that though late, you may obtain a full reward ; 
and that among the many children which you may present to 
him who gave them to you, I may be numbered, is the ardent 
prayer of, Rev. Sir, Your affectionate Daughter in the Gospel, 

M. L. 

Later letters in this collection add some melancholy 
details about the untimely death of Mary Gilbert in 
Chester. Writing in January, 1768, to Mrs. F. ? P. ?, 
Mrs. Gilbert says : — 

I am sure you will very tenderly sympathize, 
when I inform you, that the truly amiable Miss Pfollyl 
G[ilbert] , (from whose bright genius and early piety, the most 


sanguine expectations might have been indulged) is no more an 
inhabitant of^hese dusky regions, but has bid eternally farewell 
to all the vicissitudes of this fluctuating state, and is now entered 
into those joys that neither change nor period know. The 
grisly monarch's harbinger was a putrid fever, which, so soon 
as it seized her tender frame, brought on an uncommon stupor, 
a profound deafness, and for some days before her departure 
sealed up in silence those lips, from which I believe I may 
assert never proceeded anything but innocence and truth, and 
with which she was first enabled to witness a good con- 
fession, and to leave her friends the most satisfactory testimony 
of her future bliss. She was interred in that Church where 
she so lately attended me as a bridesmaid ; a silent but pathetic 
monitor of the short duration, and certain period of all human 
events ! O may my heart be open to its instructive voice ! 

Writing in the same month to Mrs. M[ary] 
F[letcher], the sorrowing Aunt says : — 

I have no doubt but you will excuse the delay, 
and very tenderly sympathize with me and our afflicted family, 
who are under the trying dispensation of having lost from 
amongst us, a most amiable and endeared relation, Miss P — 
G — , aged 17, who was taken from our society in this dreary 
vale on Thursday last, by a putrid fever, which, from its first 
approach, resisted all the force of medicine, and cruelly eluded 
the incessant care of her anxious friends. She was attended 
twice a day from the beginning to its fatal period, by two of 
the most eminent physicians of this place, and an apothecary ; 
but the destined hour was come, when she was to attain a 
dispensation from every mortal woe, be admitted to unite with 
the spirits of just men made perfect ; and we who still remain 
thus to be admonished of our own approaching change, and 
of the uncertainty of sub-lunary things. She was a blooming 
flower, but alas ! how has the grisly tyrant's sickle levelled her 
with the dust ! Before she died she gave a clear testimony of 
Jesus' power to save. Some of her words were, "I have 
found Christ, and have power to love God, because I know 


he has first loved me ; I am entirely delivered from the fear of 
death, and quite resigned to the divine disposal." All her 
conduct proved the efficacy of what she profest ; for amidst 
severe sufferings, there was nothing to be discerned, but 
stedfast patience and calm composedness even to the last. 
Great, unspeakably great, is the loss of all that were interested 
in this jewel ! 

At the Bristol Conference of 1768, the preachers 
appointed to the Cheshire Circuit were Thomas Olivers, 
William Harry, Stephen Proctor. The number of 
members in the Circuit was 484, and in the Connexion 

The two younger of these preachers soon pass away 
from Methodist records, and have left no mark. 
Stephen Proctor was received on trial at this Conference 
and attained the full status of an itinerant the next 
year. For some cause, which cannot be discerned with 
certainty, his name (and no other) is enclosed in 
brackets in the Stations of 1768 ; possibly it was 
because the appointment of a third preacher to the 
Round was merely a tentative arrangement. 

The career of Thomas Olivers is one of the most 
varied and striking recorded in that treasury of heroic 
experiences, the Lives of the Early Methodist Preachers. 
(See Vol. II). He was a native of Montgomeryshire, 
and in his wild and turbulent youth distinguished 
himself for wickedness not only in his own village but 
in Wrexham, Shrewsbury, and other towns. At length 
his wanderings brought him to Bristol, where he was 
converted under the preaching of Whitefield. Remov- 
ing to Bradford (Wilts) he was active in the pursuit of 

9 6 

religious improvement and ere long became a preacher. 
After a time be returned to Wales to claim some money 
held for him by his Uncle. Having possessed himself 
of this, his first act was to buy a horse and ride all 
round the neighbourhood paying off old debts and 
making compensation for some of the frauds of his 
earlier days. Then he started off on a longer journey 
and, passing through Chester where he was to reside at 
a later date as Superintendent Methodist preacher, he 
worked his way right through to Somersetshire, paying 
his debts all the way. 

As he often went many miles to pay a few shillings 
for which some means of remittance might have been 
found, it seems evident that the motive inspiring his 
method of personal repayment was his desire to preach 
the Gospel. His purpose was accomplished ; for his 
remarkable visits attracted much attention, the reality 
of his conversion could not be gainsaid, and the hearts 
01 many were reached. Wesley afterwards pressed him 
into the ranks of the itinerants, in which he served 
faithfully until he was called upon to reside in I/mdon 
to sustain what he called "the care of Mr. Wesley's 

Strangely enough Olivers has much more to say 
about his experiences during a preaching tour in his 
native country, than he has of anything actually 
occurring within the duly appointed limits of his work. 
Mrs. Olivers lay ill in Chester for fifteen weeks ; the 
fever being so violent that for eight weeks her life was 
despaired of. The couple were tenderly attached to 
one another, and it was with deep though chastened joy 
that the husband was able to record that his wife now 


"lay as on the brink of eternity, quiet and unmoved, 
like a ship at anchor in the mouth of a harbour, with- 
out one blast of wind to disturb her peace." 

Olivers had great gifts and did much to retrieve the 
wasted opportunities of his early days. He wrote 
several vigorous pamphlets in exposition of Methodism, 
and in defence of the Wesleys. When it is stated that 
the Church is indebted to him for the noble hymn, 
" The God of Abraham praise," it will be seen that his 
was a mind of an uncommon order. This hymn (800 in 
our collection) was adapted to a celebrated air sung by 
I^eoni in the Jews' Synagogue. Olivers was also the 
composer of the tune set to hymn 66, called Helmsley. (J) 

Chester received in 1769 another of the visits of 
Wesley, which by this time must have been looked 
upon there as an annually recurring privilege. It will 
be noticed that for a long period of years Wesley passed 
through Chester about Easter time, a fact which shows 
the regularity with which his journeys were planned. 

Thursday, March 16th, 1769, we rode with a furious wind, 
full in our faces, to Chester. 

Friday, 17th, and the next days, we had a refreshing 
season, with a loving people, and in a loving family. The 
congregations were not small in the mornings ; in the even- 
ings exceedingly large. And all who attended behaved as if 
they not only understood, but relished the good word. 

Sunday, 19th, Elizabeth Oldham called upon me. 

This was the widow of one of the travelling 
preachers, John Oldham, who had been appointed to 
the Lancashire North Circuit by the preceding Confer- 
ence, and had died during the winter. 

On the Saturday Wesley wrote an interesting letter 
to Mrs. Crosby, in which he sets forth his views as to 

9 8 

the limits within which a woman may speak in public. 

The Conference of 1769 was held in L,eeds. The 
work at home was marked by an improvement in the 
arrangement for the support of preachers' wives ; ten 
pounds yearly was to be paid to each married preacher 
for that purpose. The amount was to be raised by the 
Circuits in proportion to their ability. Chester was 
made responsible for £2 10s. per quarter, being the 
allowance for one wife. The relative strength of the 
different Methodist centres at this time may be gauged 
when it is said that Bristol contributed the same 
amount, Iyondon twice as much, and Newcastle as 
much as Iyondon and Bristol together. At this Con- 
ference three preachers were appointed to the Cheshire 
Circuit : — John Shaw, Richard Seed, and Samuel 
Bardsley. The Assistant was allowed to remain a 
second year in the Circuit. Indeed in his case we have 
■practically a third year's appointment ; for, at the 
Conference of 1770, the Cheshire Circuit was divided 
and Mr. Shaw remained in Chester ; the following year 
he removed as Assistant to Macclesfield in charge of 
Cheshire South, which had formed part of the Circuit 
to which he had been appointed in 1769. As we learn 
that six years after he left Macclesfield he returned 
thither as Assistant and remained there two years it 
may be concluded that Wesley had discerned in him 
ability to vary his ministrations. " He laboured for 
thirty years as a travelling preacher : was useful in 
every Circuit where he was stationed, and died with 
unshaken confidence in his God." 

Richard Seed survived until 1805, when he was 
suddenly smitten down by apoplexy. 


Letters of his are extant. On October 29th, 1769, 

he writes to a friend from Whitchurch. He is then 

in his round and talks of going into Wales. Another 

to an anonymous correspondent is dated Chester, 

May 22nd,i770. 

The following letter was written by Bardsley to his 
mother immediately upon his arrival in the Circuit. 
His attachment to her was a very beautiful feature of 
his character : — 

Chester, Saty, Aug. 12th, 1769. 
My Dear Hond Mother, 

Because I believe it is my duty And will give you satis- 
faction, I now write you to inform you that I am got well here 
Blessed be God for all His mercys. I got to Northwich on 
Thursday about 2 o'clock and Din'd, the people told me that 
Bror Seed had promised them that I should stay and preach 
Among them. I was glad of it and got my Boots off and 
Rested me before preaching time. I went to see my Cozen 
Forister he ask'd me how my Brothers did and how you Did. 
I told him that I was at the preaching House and should be 
glad if he would come to the preaching. He promised me he 
would. Some of our friends told me that he has a very 
masterly wife and they thought she would not let him come. 
On Friday I set out for Chester and got there about 2 o'clock. 
I did not preach last night, because we had a stranger here 
out of Ireland. We have comfortable lodgings and I hope I 
shall like very well. There are two preachers and their wives 
here. I expect to stay here till Tuesday. I would have you 
to be content about me and let both you and me Be thankfull 
to God for all his mercys. After my dear Bror and Me left 
you we was both of us very much affected poor dear lad He 
knows very well he is doing wrong. Give my dear love to 
him and desire him to take that advice that I gave him. I 
hope to see him another Creature than what he is. O, God 
turn thou Him and he shall be turned. You dont need to 


write than I write again. Pray give my Dear Love to Bror 
Wild and peggy I hope he will excuse me not coming to see 
him. You know I was busy. My Dear love to all Enquiring 
friends fare well I remain your ever dutyfull son till Death. 

Saml Bardsley. 

To Mrs Bardsley To be left at Mr Wm. Wilds The Lower 
end of Jackson's Rowe Manchester. Post Paid. 

In another letter to his mother, dated Namptwich, 
December 3rd, 1769, he says : — 

I wrote to you some time ago from Chester 
and told you how I was. I had a bad cold, but blessed be the 
Lord, it left me when I was in Wales, and I had my health very 
well while I was in Wales, tis a week since I came out of Wales. 
I desired you to send me a letter to Shrewsbury, and when I 
was there I asked Mrs. Hatton if any had come I hope 

to be at Chester next Saturday I hope to come 

over as soon as I can after the Quarter Meeting. 

There is an interesting, but most tantalizing, refer- 
ence to Bardsley's papers in the Rev. Thomas Jackson's 
Recollections of my own Life a?id Times (p. 169) : — 

He left a vast accumulation of manuscripts and other 
documents relating to Methodism, and illustrative of its 
history, which came into my hands after his decease. As they 
were of public interest, and did not properly belong to me, I 
felt that I ought not to retain them in my possession, greatly 
as I wished that they were my own ; and therefore sent a 
report concerning them to the Conference Book-Committee in 
London, asking their advice as to the right disposal of them. 
They requested me to forward them to London without delay, 
and with that request I promptly complied. On inquiring 
afterwards where they had been deposited, I had the mortifica- 
tion to learn that they had been placed in the hands of one of 
the London preachers, that he might examine and report on 
upon them ; that when he removed from the Circuit he left 
them in the house he had occupied ; that the servant maid of his 


successor, regarding them as waste paper, had used them in 
kindling fires ; so that not a scrap remained of the entire load 
which I had been so anxious to secure for the use of some 
future historian of Methodism ! They consisted of private 
letters relating mostly to the state of religion in different 
Circuits, and of printed circulars on Connexional affairs, 
embracing a period of about half a century; for Mr. Bardsley 
appears scarcely ever to have destroyed any papers that came 
into his possession. One of the documents which he left, 
however, I found that I had retained, and will here insert it 
as a curiosity of its kind. It is a letter addressed by a Clergy- 
man to " Hannah Damp," a young woman in Chester, who 
had begun to attend the Methodist meetings, and was thought 
on that account to be on the very brink of ruin. It shows the 
estimate that was formed of Methodism in that part of the 
country a hundred years ago. 

" Hannah, 

You must allow me to tell you, that I was very much 
shocked and surprised with the account I had from your good 
mother yesterday ; and the more so to find that religion was 
made a pretence to justify what every sober Christian must be 
convinced is absolutely condemned by it. It gives me much 
concern to hear that you have given any part of the time which 
ought to be faithfully and conscientiously employed in discharg- 
ing the common duties of life, to an attendance upon a set of 
men who call themselves Methodists ; though their dangerous 
delusions never fail to end in confusion and disorder amongst 
families, and a total neglect of those plain and honest rules 
and methods, which common sense, under the authority of a 
sober and reasonable faith, has prescribed to the rest of the 
world. I am really sorry for your situation, because from the 
many examples of this kind which have fallen in my way, I am 
strongly inclined to think it a desperate one. The principles 
adopted by these enthusiasts are such a disgrace and debase- 
ment of the human understanding, as well as the human heart, 
that when the infection of this poison has once got thorough 
possession, there is nothing left in the mind for a reasonable 


persuasidh to take hold of; and indeed, if I really knew you to 
be far gone in this way, I should not have employed your time 
or my own so ill, as to have given you this trouble. Instead 
of running through any other points that might expose these 
wretched doctrines and their teachers to the contempt and 
abhorrence they so justly deserve, I shall confine myself to the 
circumstances of your own case in particular. The common 
duties of life, mentioned above, which these deceivers affect to 
despise so much, are most important parts of the religion we 
profess, absolutely necessary to the salvation of all men, to 
a degree, that the Gospel, which is so mild and merciful in 
other respects, speaks with some rigour and severity upon this. 
St. Paul tells us that if a man will not work, neither must 
he eat ; that those who neglect their own households are 
worse than infidels and have denied the faith. If, therefore, 
you should prevail upon yourself, under any pretext whatever, 
to desert the duties of that state of life unto which it hath 
pleased God to call you, I shall recommend it strongly to your 
mother not to receive you. 

May God Almighty give you a just and sober sense of 
His most holy religion ; and to His good providence I 
commend you. 

June 26th, 1770. Vicar of Arreton." 

What effect this epistle produced upon poor " Hannah 
Damp," we have no means of knowing. That she was taught 
by those " wretched deceivers," the Methodist preachers, to 
neglect and despise the common duties of life, was notoriously 
untrue, such conduct being a direct violation of the rules of 
the Societies, to the practical observance of which they were 
pledged. (K). 

Towards the close of 1769 a young man in Chester 
wrote : — 

Being thus brought from darkness to light, and experienc- 
ing such amazing sweetness in religion, I delayed not to join 


the Methodist Society, though I trembled in every joint when 
good Mr. Bardsley gave me the Note of Admittance. 

This young man was Samuel Bradburn, destined 
to be known as the Methodist Demosthenes, one of the 
most remarkable men that ever entered the Methodist 
ministry. Dr. Gregory, in his charming little book, 
" From Cobbler's Bench to President's Chair'" 1 says : — 

Little did Mr. Bardsley think, as he gave that note of 
admittance into the Methodist Society to that young cobbler's 
apprentice, that before the end of the century he should see 
him sitting at the head of the Methodist Conference in John 
Wesley's seat. 

Bradburn always regarded Bardsley as his spiritual 
father ; and the two were lifelong friends. In later 
years both were familiarly known to the Methodist 
people as "Sammy" Both developed a considerable 
rotundity of figure ; Bardsley was a regular man- 
mountain, and his friend chaffmgly used to call him 
" a great lump of love " and " a heavenly apple 

The father of the great orator was born in 17 19 
at Atcham, near Shrewsbury. On reaching his 
majority he eloped with a gardener's daughter from 
Wrexham, only in her teens, and was married at 
Chester. The young bridegroom was shortly hurried 
away by the barbarous press-gang, and accompanied 
by his girl wife, passed through the terrible campaigns 
in Flanders (1744- 1748). He was afterwards ordered 
to Gibraltar, where the future evangelist was born 
on board a man of war, October 5th, 1751. Methodist 
influences were contributory to the child's early 
training. His father had been powerfully impressed 
by the preaching, conversation, and example of 


three brave Methodist soldiers, Haime, Staniforth, 
and Evans ; though never a member of the Methodist 
Society he became devout and conscientious and tried 
to teach his children Scripture truth. In 1763, after 
three and twenty years of military service, Bradburn 
Senior obtained his discharge, and fixed his home 
in Chester, apprenticing Sammy to a shoemaker. At 
the Methodist Chapel to which the lad was regularly 
taken by his parents, he was brought under the 
influence of the powerful sermons preached there by 
the men whose names have been mentioned already. 
Unhappily, however, evil influences prevailed with 
him, among which is specially mentioned a visit to the 
Chester races. Passing from bad to worse he left home 
so as to be free from all restraint. Dr. Gregory draws 
a striking picture of the future President when he 
" alternately slouched and staggered along the streets 
and Rows and past the Churches and Chapels, and 
beside the walls and battlements of the fine old City, 
and on the banks of the ancient Dee, a miserable 
English version of the hunger-bitten prodigal. He 
writes : — ' To all appearance there was but a step 
between me and everlasting death.' " At the age of 
eighteen employment was found for him under a 
Methodist master, and he was persuaded to return to 
his parents' house. Bradburn's conversion, which soon 
followed, is described by him in the following words : — 

One evening in the close of the year 1769, while looking 
at some decayed flowers, I was suddenly carried as it were out 
of myself with thoughts of death and of eternity. I attempted 
to banish these ideas, but, like the prodigal, I now came to 
myself. But my sins were set in full array before me, particu- 
larly that of ingratitude to my good and gracious God. This 


caused my very bones to tremble. Hell from beneath seemed 
moved to meet me. I stood motionless for a time, and could 
scarcely reach home, though but a little way off. I went to 
bed, but not to rest. My friends concluded I was in a high 

This experience was succeeded by a long spiritual 
struggle, in the different stages of which we read some- 
times of strange self-imposed penances, which harassed 
the body and brought no relief to the soul ; sometimes 
of conversations with the godly master ; sometimes of 
seeking guidance among the Methodists ; until we are 
brought to the point at which we first met the young 
man — his entrance into the marvellous light of God and 
the membership of the Methodist Society. The new 
convert availed himself of the means of grace offered 
by the Methodists : he soon sought also to do good by 
his words in these comparatively private gatherings. 
At the March visitation of the classes in 1770 he 
received his first ticket of membership from Mr Shaw. 

He also served as many others have done a sort of 
apprenticeship to the work of preaching by frequently 
accompanying the preacher to the country places on 
the Sabbath day His "call to preach" is first men- 
tioned in connection with Wesley's visit to Chester in 
March, 1771. 

At the very moment Mr. Wesley gave me the Sacrament 
of the Lord's Supper, the thought came into my mind that I 
was called to preach and, ascribing it entirely to diabolical 
agency, I instantly went to prayer I endeavoured to 

banish this thought, but grew dull and melancholy. My 
temper also became so morose that I was a trouble to myself 
and those around me. I therefore went home to work in a 
room alone. 


Wesley had a deep sense of the value of the Lord's 
Supper as a means of grace. Bradburn was not the 
only one in Chester who felt the influence of such a 
service conducted by such a man. Of Mrs. M. Parry, 
who died at Wrexham in 1837, it is recorded that she 
" received a sense of the Divine favour at Chester while 
Mr. Wesley was administering the Lord's Supper." 
She must have entered the Society while very young 
for one of her tickets bore the date 1770. 

The first sermon Bradburn ever preached was in 
1773 when, on Sunday, February 7th, the congregation 
at Wrexham was disappointed by Mr. Gardner of 
Tattenhall. The name of one of the believers there 
who then encouraged Bradburn to open his evangelical 
commission amongst them has been preserved : 
Mrs. Mary Franceys, who died in the same town in 
1826, aged 89. 

Step by step the way opened up ; Fletcher of Made- 
ley took pains with the gifted lad ; the Chester 
preachers found him abundant opportunities of preach- 
ing in their immense Circuit; until in 1774 he was 
formally appointed to the Liverpool Circuit. In the 
Allan Library is a piece of glass inscribed, " God is 
love: Samuel Bradburn, Sept. 16th, 1774." This 
originally formed part of a window in the old preaching 
house at Preston - on - the - hill, in the Warrington 
Circuit. (Iv) 

Wesley's visit to Chester in 1770 extended from 
Saturday, March 31st, to Tuesday, April 3rd. The 
Journal simply mentions his arrival from Rochdale and 
his departure to Liverpool. 


On April ist he wrote a letter to Miss Mary Mars- 
ton of Worcester, which has been printed in the Mag., 
and in his collected works. 

In the course of this year was published a little 
pamphlet : A Short Account of the Death of Mary 
Langson of Taxall, in Cheshire ; who died January the 
2qth, 1769. Printed in the year MDCCLXX. 

Taxall is situated on the extreme Eastern border 
of the county, about a mile from Chapel-en-le-Frith. 
The name of the author is not given, but probably it was 
Thomas Olivers. Two hymns are appended. The 
first is by Charles Wesley, " Happy soul thy days are 
ended," being the hymn chosen by the deceased for her 
funeral. The second, a hymn of praise to Christ, may 
perhaps be attributed to Thomas Olivers. All that is 
known about this little pamphlet may be read in Green's 
Wesley Bibliography 2$q. Wesley may have met with 
this account and furthered its publication, when he 
went on his way " slowly through Staffordshire and 
Cheshire to Manchester," in March, 1770. He thought 
the tract of sufficient importance to be included in the 
thirteenth volume of his collected works in 1772. 

Towards the end of this year the Methodists of 
Chester, in common with their fellow members through- 
out the country, were saddened by the tidings from 
America of the death of George Whitefield, whom 
many of them had heard to their lasting good. 

At the Conference of 1770 the number of Circuits 
was increased from 46 to 50 ; the last on the list 
being 50 — America. Cheshire was divided into North 
and South ; Chester and Macclesfield being the 
respective Circuit towns. Lancashire was similarly 


divided, with Manchester and L/iverpool at the head of 
the divisions respectively, though they were not yet so 
mentioned in the Minutes. Cheshire was recorded to 
have 565 members. Forty-three Preachers' wives were 
to be provided for ; Sister Shaw being assigned to the 
care of Cheshire North. Children were to be main- 
tained by the Societies profiting by the labours of the 
fathers. ^60 8s. 2d. was Chester's share of the money 
raised towards the reduction of the debt. Two 
preachers only were appointed to Cheshire North, 
though it covered the area of more than half a score 
modern Circuits. John Shaw, the Chester Assistant, 
remained ; his two colleagues, however, were removed, 
and Joseph Guilford, who had been in Chester at an 
earlier date, was sent in their place. Of Guilford 
Wesley said: — "A holy man, and a useful preacher. 
Surely never before did a man of so weak talents, do so 
wuch good." 

In the spring of 1771 Wesley was again in Chester, 
visiting Whitchurch for the first time on his way. 

Saturday, March 16th, between nine and ten, I began at 
Cardinmarsh. I have not seen the bulk of a congregation so 
melted down since I left London. In the evening we had a 
Sunday congregation at Chester; and many were filled with 
consolation. Both on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, all our 
congregations were uncommonly large ; otherwise I should 
have regretted staying so long, while the weather was pleasant 
and the wind fair. 

Wednesday, 20th, having agreed with a captain who 
promised to sail immediately, we went down to Parkgate ; but 
the wind turning, I preached in the evening to most of the 
gentry in the town. I preached likewise, morning and even- 
ing, on Thursday. 


On March 17th he wrote two letters which appear 
in his collected works: to Miss Briggs, and to Miss 
Mary Stokes. 

At the Conference of 1771 Joseph Guilford was 
promoted to the position of Assistant, with Barnabas 
Thomas as his colleague, in what was for the first time 
called the Chester Circuit. 

In the course of his next journey to Chester 
Wesley had the disagreeable experience of sticking fast 
in the mud on an execrable road between Nantwich 
and Whitchurch. 

Saturday, March 28th, 1772, I rode on to Chester. 

Sunday, 29th, there were about forty persons in St. John's 
Church at the morning service. Our room was pretty well 
filled in the morning, and crowded in the evening. 

The Conference of 1772, the twenty-ninth in the 
history of Methodism, was held at L,eeds. John Oliver 
and Robert Gosterdine were appointed to Chester. 
The latter remained in the ranks until 181 2 when he 
passed away at the advanced age of 85. The former 
was a useful preacher for a time ; but subsequently left 
the Methodist ministry. The tentative character of 
Methodist finance appears from the fact the wife of one 
preacher was to be provided for in Chester, while 
the other had to look to the Manchester Society for 

In the year 1772 there entered the City a runaway 
apprentice in absolute destitution, who afterwards be- 
came a useful " Helper" in Wesley's work. Matthias 
Joyce (whose interesting life is fully described in the 


fourth volume of " The Lives of the Early Methodist 
Preachers ") was at the time an ignorant and wicked Irish 
Papist. He ran away from the master to whom he was 
apprenticed in Dublin to L,ondon. There he met at 
length with a friend who persuaded him to return. On 
his return journey he passed through Chester ; his ex- 
periences there are described in his own words : — 

When I came within half a mile of Chester, I sat down to 
rest myself. While I sat my joints stiffened, and I became 
more sensible of pain. My feet also swelled, and my thighs 
were raw with walking. Here I sat, a poor forlorn wretch ; 
without money, food, or any visible help. Nor did I know 
where to turn myself when I entered the City ; but I had a 
hope it would be well with me when I got there. After some 
time I strove to rise ; but it was with the greatest difficulty, I 
got first on one knee, then on the other. However, by degrees 
with excessive pain, I got on to my feet and crept on. Just as 
I came to the River Dee, I saw a man with two pitchers of 
water, resting himself. I went to him, and asked him to let 
me drink. He said, if it was sack I should have it, and held 
the pitcher to my mouth. Having drunk freely he asked me 
how far I came. I told him. He asked me if I had lodgings. 
I said " No, neither have I any money to give for one." Then 
said he, " The Lord succour you ! for you are come into a bad 
place ; but come along with me. Accordingly, I went with 
him to his house, where he set before me hanged beef, bread, 
and potatoes ; and made me eat until I could eat no more. 
After dinner he went with me to look for work. On showing 
me a master printer in the street, I went up to him, and asked 
if he wanted a hand. He looked at me, and seeing me very 
young (being then about eighteen), he said, " You are a run- 
away from your master ; and therefore if I had room for ten 
men I would not give you work." " O Sir," said I, " will you 
give me something, for I am in very great distress." He 
answered with a degree of sternness, " I will not give you one 
farthing." As soon as he said this, I turned from him and 


was afraid to try anywhere else. On saying to my friend, " I 
will sell my waistcoat," he said, " Then come with me, and I 
will show you where you will get as much for it as in any part 
of the city." Accordingly, he brought me to a woman whose 
name was Reely, wife to Sergeant Reely, belonging to the 
Yorkshire Militia, who sold clothes for people and got three 
pence in the shilling for selling them. When she saw me she 
pitied my case ; and when I stripped off my coat and waist- 
coat she began to weep, and asked if I had nothing else to sell. 
I said " No." Then she said she would sell it for as much as 
she could get and not charge me anything. She did so, and 
brought me three shillings for it. She also made me stay to 
supper and washed my feet and my handkerchief. She likewise 
cleaned my shoes and sent her daughter to get me a lodging ; 
and insisted on my having a bed to myself let it cost what it 
would and said she would pay for it herself. She also sent 
her daughter in the morning with my handkerchief and 
stockings which she had washed, and gave me a loaf when I 
was going away, and charged me not to change my money 
until I got to Liverpool. 

By slow and painful stages Matthias Joyce was 
brought into the light of Christian experience and 
ultimately into the work of a Gospel preacher. 

The Conference of 1773 allowed John Oliver to 

remain in Chester, but appointed as junior preacher 

Thomas Brisco, a Chester man who had left his native 

place twenty years previously. He and his brother had 

joined the Society soon after its commencement, at the 

time when it met in L,ove L,ane. He was a somewhat 

pensive disciple even in his youth ; but his record is 

that he was a devoted and consistent servant of Christ. 

In the course of his second year Mr. Oliver was 

invited to Wrexham, and preached " abroad " to about 

a thousand serious hearers. He received most arbitrary 


and high-handed treatment at the hands 01 a Justice of 
the Peace who bore the suggestive name of Boycott. 
(For particulars see Mag. I'jjgJ 

Wesley seems to have accomplished his Irish 
journey of 1773 without calling at Chester ; it was not, 
therefore, till 1774 that his friends there saw his face 

Friday, April 8th, 1774, I went on to Chester. 

Saturday, gth, I visited our old friends at Alpraham ; many 
of whom are now well nigh worn out, and just ready for the 

The following letter, the original of which was 
presented to the Mission House by Mr. W T. Davies of 
Chester, was published in the Mag. (1880) by the Rev. 
Nehemiah Curnock. The words bracketted are con- 
jectural emendations. The circumstances to which 
Wesley is referring are not known, but in all probability 
the letter relates to the debt incurred at the erection of 

the Octagon Chapel. 


June 22nd, 1774. 
Dear Jonathan, 

It appears to me, that Mr. Oliver should in a mild and 
loving manner talk with T. Bennet. and tell him, " Mr. W will 
take it exceeding ill, if he does not pay ye money according 
to his promise." If he urges any, or all the points you men- 
tion, Mr. O. may readily make the same answers that you do. 
I can hardly think T. Bennet, has any design to wr[ong m]e ; 
but he is stout, and stands upon his [honoujr. 

Be not weary of well doing. Be glad if you can do a 

little for God. And do what you can, till you can do what you 


I am, 

Dear Jonathan, 

Your Aff [ectionate] Brother, 


Address — Mr. Jon. Pritchard, at Boughton, near Chester. 

ii 3 

The Conference of this year sent to Chester 
William Collins and Francis Wrigley, both of them 
good and strong men. Wrigley was an intimate 
friend of Samuel Bardsley. When Bardsley died in 
1818, being then the oldest preacher in the Connexion, 
his friend was with him. Wrigley attained to the same 
honourable distinction before he passed away in 1824. 

In 1775 Wrigley was succeeded by Thomas Carlill. 

A specimen of Bardsley's correspondence has 
already been given to the reader. The following 
letters, also characteristic of his style, are transcribed 
here for the sake of their numerous references to 
Chester people. Writing to F. Wrigley on Dec. 30th, 
1774, he inquires after his Chester friends and sends his 

dear love to Mr. Brown and Mr. Smith at Whitchurch and 
their families. Also to Mr. Allwood, near Acton, and his 
wife. Pray send me word how he and his family do and how 
my old friend Smith does. Where is my old father Swindells? 
I hear his wife is dead. My dear love to bro' 

Collins & wife, to Mr. & Mrs. Bennett, Air. Thomas Shaw, 
currier & his wife, and also to bro' Pritchard & his wife and 
sister, and to my dear old friend Thomas : I hope his grey 
locks will go down in peace to the house appointed for all 
living. My dear love to George Shaw & wife, bro' Roberts 
& wife. He is a carpenter. I hope thou wilt also give my 
dear love to Mr. and Mrs. Orme and their daughters : they 
live not far from your house. 

Writing from Sheffield, April 7th, 1775, to Mr. 
Thomas Shaw, Currier, in Chester, Bardsley says ; — 

I think it a long time since I saw you. I think I can say 
with the Apostle " I long to see you" and many more in 
Chester. I have lately been contriving how I must do to get 
to Chester. Soon I shall go over to Manchester to see my 
dear Mother and then I intend to take a day or two that I 



should be at home and come over to you. I shall endeavour, 
please God, to reach you on Saturday evening Ap. 29. Please 
to give my dear love to Bro' Collins and brother Wrigley. I 
think they will either of them lend me their pulpits. 1 will do 
that for them if they come into my Circuit. Please to give my 
dear love and service to Mr. & Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Holbrooke, 
Mr. Garner, Mr. Geo. Walker and wife, Richard Jones, Mr. 
Brackenbury & his wife and to my friend Pritchard and his 
wife and sister and father-in-law who came from Manchester, 
if alive. I have so many friends in Chester I cannot name 
them all Had Mr. Oliver known of my writing he 

would have sent his love. 

It appears from the next letter that Bardsley's 
intention of visiting Chester was successfully carried 


Near Rotherham, May the 10th, 1775. 

My Very Dear Brother, 

May Grace Mercy and Peace be multiplied unto thee now 
and for ever Amen. I received the lines thou sent to Man- 
chester and should have been glad to have come to meet thee 
but my poor mare was allmost done, and another reason was I 
had not seen my dear Chester Friends of a long while made 
me desirous to stay with them as long as I could. Had it 
been thy turn in Chester I should have been glad however as 
Conference is so near I trust I shall have the pleasure to see 
thee there. I left a Pair of straps in your Kitchin upon the 
Pewter Shelf do be so kind as to bring them to Leeds. I have 
blest God for my visit to Chester. The kind behaviour of the 
People and comfort I found while speaking to them was a 
cause of thankfullness. Well, " God is not unrighteous to 
forget their Work, & Labour of Love." O ! that they may be 
steadfast unmovable allways abounding in the Work of the 
Lord so shall they know that their labour is not in vain in the 
Lord. Give my dear love to Mr. Collins and Wife Mr. & Mrs. 
Shaw Mr. & Mrs. Walker Mr. Reader Mr. & Mrs. Bennet 
and their Children Mr. & Mrs Shepherd Bro. Geo. Shaw and 


Wife and Daughters Brother Pritchard and wife and Sister 
and all the Children and to my dear old Friend Thomas 
Woffenden. To Mr. & Mrs. Orme and their Daughters. To 
Brother Roberts the Skinner & Wife and Bro'r Roberts the 
Carpenter & Wife and Daughter To Mr. Hobrow & Wife and 
Daughter To Abraham near the Preaching House & Wife To 
Peter Haswell and Wife and asking all friends. It is my desire 
to go forward, I trust we shall Pray for each other. The Lord 
enable us to be more than ever devoted to Him and given up 
to His Work. I trust thy health is better : The Lord give 
thee an Healthfull Body and Soul. Tell Mr. Bennet I paid 
the ;£i2 5/- to Mr. Woodcroft the last Saturday for which I 
got his receipt. Wishing that the good will of Him who dwelt 
in the bush may be ever with thee ; I remain thy Affectionate 
Bro'r S. Bardsley. 
To Mr. F Wrigley at the Methodist Preaching House Chester. 


extension witbin tbe Citv : 
Commonball Street Preacbina=Roonn 


IN the year 1776 a commodious Room was secured for 
public services in Commonhall Street, then more 
commonly called Commonhall I,ane, on the same side 
of the City as St. Martin's Ash. This step was taken 
in the interests of those who found the Octagon Chapel 
too remote, situated as it was on the outskirts of the 
City on the eastern side. Preaching took place in the 
new Room at two o'clock on Sunday afternoon ; this 
hour was selected in order that public services might 
not be held in both Methodist preaching places at the 
same hour ; service in Church hours being also avoided 
in deference to the well-known wishes of Wesley. 
Though there were in Chester, as elsewhere, some 
Methodists who were unwilling to acknowledge any 
allegiance to the Episcopal Church, or to embarrass 
their evangelistic work by any reference to its services 
or usages, there was no absolute division of the Society 
at the time when the Commonhall I^ane Room was first 
engaged; at a later period, however, it became the 


rallying place for that portion of the Society which 
wished to be entirely separate from the Church of 
England. At its first occupation the Room proved 
very useful, classes were held there, and the Wednesday 
evening service was transferred thither from the 

There is reason to believe that this Room had been 
already used as a place of worship, and that a good 
many Methodists had been more or less definitely con- 
nected with it for some time ; but the date of its formal 
adoption by the Society was doubtless that mentioned 
above. The Rev. H. D. Roberts, in his recently 
published Matthew Henry a?id his Chapel, unravels 
the tangled story of an alleged secession from the 
congregation of Mr. Chidlaw, who became pastor of 
Matthew Henry's Chapel in 1765. In the course of his 
inquiries Mr. Roberts investigated a five volume folio 
manuscript in the collection at Dr. Williams's library, 
known as Records of Nonconformity, written by the Rev. 
Josiah Thompson. This was drawn up about 1772. 
Now Mr. Thompson had evidently heard of a congre- 
gation in Chester supposed to have been formed by 
" separation " from the old chapel of Matthew Henry ; 
and wrote to inquire about it to Mr. Jenkins, a 
Baptist Minister at Wrexham, who had been concerned 
in the movement. Mr. Jenkins in his reply repudiated 
the idea that he had been party to any act of separa- 
tion, and declared that the merest handful of Mr. 
Chidlaw's people left at the time. He had been invited 
to Chester, it is true, by one or two members of the 
Matthew Henry congregation, but they had assured him 
that they were not members thereof in the full sense 


of the word,* and informed him that they had been 
dissatisfied with the doctrines preached, especially by 
certain young men who had been supplied from the 
Warrington Academy during Mr. Chidlaw's illness — 

they were deputed to speak to me by several other persons 
partly Baptists & partly Methodists who had been in connection 
with Mr. Westley but were now dissatisfied I went 

accordingly. The place provided was ye Smith's Meeting 
House in Commonhall Lane There were about 200 

People hearing me. I asked what they were and was answered 
that they were Methodists & Church People who if curiosity 
had not led them to hear me would have gone nowhere. 
Numbers thus attending I altered my design of returning to 
London and at ye desire of the leading People preached to them 
all ye Winter They have had a Minister 12 months, 

the Independants (sic J are the Majority and are formed into a 
Church, the Minister's name is Will. Armitage. He is ordain- 
ed their Pastor — the numbers who attend on his preaching are 
between 3 & 400 in an Afternoon. The People are much of 
the Methodist Stamp and their Minister also. They do not 
understand the dissenting Principles and the Minister profess'd 
to me to be against the application to Parliament. 1 

Mr. Jenkins further says : — 

Time alone must discover whether this Society is likely 
to be of any continuance, at present they seem to be too 
heterogeneous a Body ever comfortably to coalesce. 

If our interpretation of the course of events is correct 
the separation into component parts did take place 
about 1776 when the Independents went to their new 
Church in Queen Street and the Methodist section of 
the congregation, with the sanction of the original 

1. This was an application made at the time for relief from subscription to the 
Articles of the Church of England; for an enlargement of the Toleration Act 
with respect to Dissenting Ministers and Schoolmasters. It is interesting to 
observe how far Methodists were in those days from thoroughgoing Dissent. 


Society at the Octagon, availed themselves of the 
opportunity of making the Room a centre of Methodist 
operations on that side of the city- 

The room first occupied by the Independents was 
probably part of St. Ursula's Hospital on the south side 
of the lane. They afterwards removed to a larger room 
on the north side ; both rooms have long since been 
demolished. The room on the north side was probably 
that in which Mr. Jonathan Wilcoxen preached for 
many years from 1808 onwards, some of his congrega- 
tion having been formerly in connexion with the Rev. 
Philip Oliver. Mr. Wilcoxen's people erected a Chapel 
in 1839, which was occupied by those who subsequently 
founded the Independent Church in Northgate Street. 

After they left, the building was used as a British 
School. It appears that between the departure of the 
Methodists on the erection of their Chapel in Trinity 
Lane in 1794 (as described in Chapter V.), and the 
commencement of Mr. Wilcoxen's work, the room was 
used by Baptists, their pastor being Mr. Aston. There 
is another Chapel in the L,aue, which was erected in 
1820, and used first by the Welsh Calviuistic Methodists 
who migrated to St. John Street, and later on by the 
Primitive Methodists who removed recently to the City 
Temple, Hunter Street. 1 

At the Conference of 1776, John Mason and 
Robert Roberts were appointed to the circuit. They 

These particulars have been gathered from many sources, including Walker's MS.; 
History of Chester, 1815, by Dr. Pigot, illustrated by Cuitt ; Trevor's Panorama, 
i^43; Robert's Chester Guide; Rise of Nonconformity in Chester, Mr. J. G. 
Hope, 1889; and the books already mentioned. It should be stated that some 
think that Rev. H. D. Roberts minimises the doctrinal secession from 
Matthew Henry's Chapel 


had been close friends for many years. Contrary to 
modern usage the "Assistant" was the younger man ; 
indeed, years before, he had received a note on trial at 
the hands of the man who was now his "junior" 
colleague. John Mason was a pious and useful man, 
well read in philosophy and science, especially botany, 
of which his knowledge was remarkably extensive. x 

Robert Roberts was very closely associated with 
Chester and its neighbourhood during a great part of 
his life. He was born in 1731 at Upton, near Chester, 
of farming parents. At the age of sixteen, upon the 
death of his father, he was apprenticed to a Chester 
wheel- wright. Young Roberts attended the services of 
the Established Church, but bears testimony that 

the first good impression, as far as I can recollect, that was 
made upon my mind, was by a few words dropped by Mr. 
Thomas Brisco, without any seeming design of his ; but God 
sent them home to my heart, and they were as a nail fixed in 
a sure place. We had been schoolfellows when very young ; 
and when I went to live in Chester, we were intimate com- 
panions till he became religious. But then I avoided him, as 
though he had had the plague, because he was called a 
Methodist. Nevertheless, I retained a secret respect for him. 
About two years after his conversion, being in company with 
him and his brother, he happened to mention some rude usage 
they had met with that day as they returned from the Church ; 
among other things the people cried out, " There go the 
sanctified Methodists ! " He pitied their ignorance, and with 
a good deal of fervour wished what they had said were true ; 
adding, " If I was sanctified, I should not be long out of 
heaven." When I was about twenty-one years of 

age, Mr. Brisco invited me to hear Mr. John Hampson. 

1. E.M.P. III., 314. 


As a result of such good influences as these 
Roberts was received into the Society, and before long 
appointed to lead a class. After some time he began 
to give a word of exhortation ; first in Chester, then in 
North Wales, Cheshire, and Lancashire. For two 
years he lived at Neston and carried on his trade 

But I had my trials ; for the people agreed not to 
employ me, because I was a Methodist preacher. I was 
brought before the justices, at one of their monthly meetings ; 
but this did not afford my persecutors cause for triumph ; 
for I had words given to me which confounded them all. 1 

This devoted man made many attempts to get a 
preaching place in Neston, but without success. After 
trying other methods in vain, he leased some land there, 
and being threatened with the press-gang procured a 
license. Being then threatened with punishment for 
preaching in an unlicensed place he got the house 
licensed. Even then his opponents were not foiled, for 
with threats and promises the man who lived in 
the house was persuaded to prevent the preaching. 
Another house was procured at an extravagant rent 
nearly two miles Irom the town, and there much bless- 
ing was received. At this point the story of Robert 
Roberts fits in with what has been elsewhere recorded 
about the preaching place at L,eighton. Happily 
persecution lulled after a while, and Roberts was 
prospering in business when the divine call to the 
"full work" reached him. The Conference of 1759 
sent him to the Wiltshire Circuit ; his family was 
supported by a little property of which he was 

1. E.M.P. II., 264. 


possessed. It -was with a good record behind him 
and an intimate acquaintance with the Methodism of 
the locality that Mr. Roberts came to take up his 
post in the Chester Circuit. 

1777: John Murlin ; Robert Roberts. 

John Murlin was a man of renown in early Method- 
ism. He was a native of Cornwall, but his labours had 
taken him all over the country ; he was not an entire 
stranger to the Chester Methodists, for he had spent a 
few days with them in July, 1757. His experiences in 
the Circuit are expressed in the following words : — 

After our Conference ended, we set off for the Chester 
Circuit, where we arrived safe on Monday, August the 18th. 
This is a trying Circuit to flesh and blood ; our journies are 
very long, and in many places the congregations very small ; 
yet it pleased God to bless our labours and increase our 

Friday, January 16th, 1778, I came to Whitchurch ; but 
my cough and hoarseness were such, that it was with difficulty 
I could speak so as to be understood. I desired Mr. Brown 
to supply my place a few days, while I rested at Mr. Sim's at 
Alperham. But as I was not willing to be idle, I wrote two 
hymns, one for the morning, and another for the evening. 
Since that time I have written about sixty more. I find this 
to be both a pleasing and a profitable exercise : it keeps the 
mind quite engaged on the subject, and lifted up to God in 
prayer for assistance. (M). 

He subsequently published a volume entitled : 
Sacred Hymns on Various Subjects, Leeds, 178 1. 

He was a very emotional preacher and was widely 
known as " The Weeping Prophet." 

There is not much to record about the visits of 
Wesley to Chester during this period. It is probable, 


but not certain, that he visited Chester in 1775 ; for he 
states that on his way to Ireland he preached at many 
places between Northwich and Liverpool. 

In 1776, after a remarkably encouraging visit to 

Manchester, Wesley writes : — 

Tuesday, April gth, I came to Chester and had the satis- 
faction to find an earnest, loving, well-established people. 

The next year he writes : — 

Thursday, April 17th, 1777 [starting from Bolton], I called 
upon Mr. Barker at Little Leigh, just tottering over the great 
gulph. Being straightened for time, I rode from thence to 
Chester. I had not, for some years, rode so far on horseback, 
but it did me no hurt. After preaching, I took chaise, and 
came to Middlewich, a little before the Liverpool coach, in 
which I went to London. 

In the autumn of 1777 disputes amongst the 
Methodists of Dublin caused Wesley to pay them an 
unexpected visit. After being exposed to more than 
usual perils on the sea, Wesley passed through Chester 
on his return journey. 

Monday, October 13th, 1777, wanting to be in London as 
soon as possible, I took chaise at seven [from Holyhead], and 
hastened to Bangor ferry ; but here we were at a full stop ; 
they could not, or would not, carry us over till one the next 
day ; and they then gave us only two miserable horses, 
although I had paid before hand (fool as I was) for four. 
At Conway ferry we were stopped again ; so that with all the 
speed we could possibly make, even with a chaise and four, we 
travelled eight and twenty miles yesterday, and seventeen 
to-day. Thursday, in the afternoon, we reached Chester : 
Friday morning, Litchfield : and on Saturday morning, 

Ill March 1778, Wesley had arranged to pay his 
usual spring visit to Chester, on his way to Ireland via 


Parkgate ; lie was diverted therefrom by a letter from 
Mr. Wagner informing him that a "pacquet" was 
ready to sail from Liverpool. He sent his horses 
forward from Manchester and followed them himself in 
the morning. But before he arrived at his destination, 
the wind, as he tells us, turned West; "so I was 
content." L,et us hope that the Methodists of Chester 
were possessed of like equanimity ! 

The following letter further explains Wesley's 

London, Feb. 14th, 1778. 
To Mr. Samuel Bardsley, at the Preaching House, in Liverpool. 
Dear Sammy, 

So your mother is at rest ! We shall go to her ; though 
she will not return to us. I am glad you are so agreeably 
situated, and that you already see some fruit of your labour. 
About the 27th of March I expect to be at Chester. If a ship 
be ready at Parkgate, I purpose to embark directly : if not, I 
shall pay you a visit at Liverpool. I fix upon nothing : let the 
Lord do as seemeth Him good. 

I am, Dear Sammy, 

Your affectionate brother, 


1778 : James Barry ; Robert Gosterdine. 

On Wednesday, April 7th, 1779, Wesley preached 
at Chester and Alpraham in the course of an extensive 
journey throughout the Kingdom. 

About this period that wonderful Methodist saint, 
Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers, evidently spent a little time 
among the Methodists of Chester, for in letters to her 
cousin at this date she refers to Miss Salmon's kind- 
ness to her at Chester ; and " her love for Miss Bennet, 
and all that family." 


1779 : James Barry ; William Horner. 

In illustration of the varied experiences of the 
early Methodist preachers, it may be mentioned that 
Horner was an Irish Presbyterian by birth ; he was 
however a stranger to converting grace until led to 
Christ by an itinerant preacher named John Smith. 
John Smith was the first Wesleyan minister of that 
name, and may be distinguished from all others by two 
facts both remarkable in their own way : before his 
conversion he was the most eminent pugilist and cock- 
fighter in Newry ; in the course of his ministry he was 
privileged to lead to the Saviour no less than twenty 
young men who subsequently became travelling 
preachers. Mr. Horner was noted for the regularity 
with which he filled his appointments ; a favourite 
saying of his was, " When a preacher neglects his 
appointment, the devil generally supplies his place, and 
collects a larger congregation than usual to participate 
in the disappointment and the offence." He was known 
as a handy man about a house and an excellent 

At the end of March, 1780, Wesley says : — 

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I spent at Liverpool, 
being undetermined whether to proceed or not. At length I 
yielded to the advice of my friends, and deferred my journey to 
Ireland ; so I preached at Northwich about noon : and in the 
evening at Alpraham, in the midst of the old Methodists. We 
had a very different congregation at Nantwich in the evening : 
but as many as could get into the house or near the door 
behaved very seriously. 

Saturday, April 1st, I returned to Chester, and found 
many alive to God, but scarcely one that retained his pure 


Sunday 2nd, I reached Warrington about ten : the chapel 
was wefl filled with serious hearers; and I believe God 
confirmed the word of His grace. Hastening back to Chester 
I found a numerous congregation waiting, and immediately 
began, This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our 

In the absence of information it seems impossible 
to define with precision the state of spiritual experience 
referred to above. 

At this time Wesley published a controversial 
writing which must have cost him a great deal of labour. 
It is entitled : A letter to the Printer of the Public 
Advertiser, occasioned by the late Act passed in favour of 
Popery. To which is added, A defence of it, in Two 
Letters to the Editors of the Freeman's fournal, Dublin. 
Chester, March 31st, 1780. 

1780 : William Boothby ; Jonathan Hern. 

The former had been an itinerant only four years, 
and the appointment shows the esteem in which 
Wesley held him. The work of these brethren was 

On Thursday, April 5th, 1781, Wesley says : — 

I went to Chester. The house was well filled with deeply 
attentive hearers. I perceived God had exceedingly blessed 
the labours of the preachers. The congregations were much 
larger than they used to be. The Society was increased ; and 
they were not only agreed among themselves, but in peace 
with all around them. 

Friday 6th, I went to Alpraham, and preached the funeral 
sermon of good old sister Cawley. She has been indeed a 
mother in Israel ; a pattern of all good works. 

This was Jane, the wife of Richard Cawley. She 
passed away on March 30th, at the age of 71 (see 


Chap. I.) There can have been few of the old 1749 
Methodists remaining at this time. 

In the course of a few days Wesley was back again 
in Chester ; for violent weather drove back, into Holy- 
head, the ship in which he was endeavouring to cross 
to Ireland, and he was then convinced that it was not 
the will of God that he should undertake an Irish 
journey at that time. 

1781 : Jonathan Hern ; William Simpson ; William 

Boothby, Supernumerary. 

In the second and third editions of Wesley's works 
appears a letter to Miss I^oxdale, dated Chester, 
December 15th, 1781. What can be made of this? Is 
it probable that Wesley paid a flying visit to Chester in 
the depth of winter ? The Journal shews that he 
returned to L,ondon from Chatham on December 13th. 
There is nothing recorded to shew how December 
13th — 21st was spent, but there is no hint of any 
departure from L,ondon. There is evidently some 
mistake which cannot be corrected without further 

1782 : John Fenwick ; John Goodwin ; John Oliver. 

It seems that 1782 was exceptional inasmuch as 
there is no Wesley visit to record. When again the 
spring came round and with it the accustomed journey 
to Ireland, Chester Methodists had once more the 
privilege of hearing the man they regarded as their 
religious leader. It is probable that he visited them 
on his outward journey for he says : — 

Tuesday, April 1st, 1783 [From Hinckley], I went through 
several of the Societies, till I reached Holyhead. 


He certainly visited them on his return for he tells 
us that he met the friends at Chester on May 9th. 

One of the hearers of Wesley at the Octagon 
Chapel about this time speaks of a sermon upon 
Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones. The hearer referred 
to was Mary, afterwards the wife of Joseph Janion (the 
historian of Chester Methodism), and mother of the 
Rev. Charles Janion. Her maiden name was Wharton, 
and she was born at Stapleford in 1762. Her mother 
was for many years a worthy Methodist. One of her 
brothers, who died about 1830, was for upwards of fifty 
years a leader and local preacher in the Chester Circuit. 
He was converted in 1784. Mrs. Janion died in 1841. 

1783 : Duncan Wright ; John Goodwin ; George Gibbon. 

The former was a faithful Highlander, who had a 
military record behind him. (K. M. P. II.) 

The visit of Wesley in 1784 is remarkable for the 
strain of discouragement in which he writes on account 
of the discontinuance of the early morning service. 
Though Wesley himself could usually secure a large 
body of hearers at any hour, it would seem that the 
attempt to maintain these five o'clock services was 
breaking down throughout the country. It is grievous 
to find the good man in such unwonted despondency ; 
there can be no doubt that there was more evidence of 
God's grace at this time in Chester than he had ever 
been privileged to see in Savannah or Georgia. The 
following is the passage in the Journal : — 

Monday, April 5th. 1784. About noon I preached at 
Alpraham, to an unusually large congregation. I was sur- 
prised when I came to Chester, to find, that there also, 


morning preaching was quite left off, for this worthy reason, 
" Because the people will not come, or at least, not in the 
winter." If so, " the Methodists are a fallen people." Here is 
proof. They have lost their first love ; and they never will or 
can recover it till they do the first works. As soon as I set 
foot in Georgia, I began preaching at five in the morning. 
And every communicant, that is, every serious person in the 
town, constantly attended throughout the year ; I mean, came 
every morning, winter and summer, unless in case of sickness. 
They did so till I left the province. In the year 1738, when 
God began his great work in England, I began preaching at 
the same hour } winter and summer, and never wanted a con- 
gregation. If they will not attend now, they have lost their 
zeal, and then it cannot be denied, "they are a fallen people." 
And in the meantime we are labouring to secure the preaching- 
houses to the next generation : in the name of God } let us, if 
possible, secure the present generation from drawing back to 
perdition ! Let all the preachers, that are still alive to God, 
join together as one man, fast and pray, lift up their voice as 
a trumpet, be instant, in season, out of season, to convince 
them that they are fallen, and exhort them, instantly to repent, 
and do the first works. This in particular, rising in the morn- 
ing, without which neither their souls nor bodies can long 
remain in health. 

It is of interest to note the contrast between this 
reference to Chester and the next paragraph in the 
Journal describing the state of the work in Liverpool. 
" Here I found a people much alive to God : one cause 
of which was, they have preaching several mornings in 
a week, and prayer-meetings on the rest ; all of which 
they are careful to attend." 

The great-grandson of Geo. L,owe (the first) relates 
the following story, which also shews the tenacity 
with which Wesley clung to the original practices 
of Methodism. On one of his later visits, he was 


standing by the table in the vestry of the Octagon 
Chapel, in the presence of several of the leading men, 
and said, " I hear the Bands are given up ; if that is so, 
I will not come to Chester again." George IyOwe, 

junr., replied, " I and brother still meet in band." 

" Then," said Wesley, " I will come." 

1785: Duncan Wright; Thomas Corbett; Edward 

In the spring of 1785, Wesley, disappointed of a 
boat at Liverpool, hurried to Parkgate, was disappoint- 
ed there again, and hurried on to Holyhead through 
Chester, apparently without stopping to preach 
there. The "care of all the Churches" rested upon 
Wesley wherever he was, and the vicissitudes of travel 
were never permitted to interrupt his reading or corres- 
pondence. In the course of this hurried journey he 
addressed a letter from Conway to Roger Crane, of the 
Fylde. In it he says : " I have sent to Derbyshire, and 
hope Nathaniel Ward will speedily remove to Chester 
to assist Mr. Wright." x 

It cannot be said what circumstances rendered 
desirable Mr. Ward's removal from the Circuit to which 
the Conference of 1784 had appointed him ; or whether 
he actually came to Chester. At the next Conference 
he left the work. 

On his return from Ireland Wesley records : — 

Wednesday, July 13th, 1785, we reached Chester. After 
preaching there between five and six in the evening, I stepped 
into the stage coach, which was just setting out, and travelling 
day and night, was brought safe to London on Friday, in the 

1. This letter is printed by Mr. B. Moore in his Methodism in East Lanes., etc. 


1785: John Fletcher; Richard Rodda; Melyille Horne; 
James Wray. 

The first name is that of the saintly and illustrious 
Vicar of Madeley, who had long been a close friend and 
valued yoke-fellow of John Wesley. This is not the 
place to speak of his apostolic labours, or of his 
masterly polemics ; they are part of the heritage of the 
Christian Church, and will never be forgotten. The 
immediate duty is to explain the appearance of his 
name upon the plan of the Chester Circuit at this time. 
John Fletcher's name had appeared in the Minutes for 
1 78 1, but was then put down for IyOndon, after John 
and Charles Wesley. After the Conference debates of 

1784 and 1785 it was the wish of this saintly man to be 
included again, formally and expressly, among the 
Methodist preachers ; a wish for the gratification of 
which precedents could be found. Madeley was then 
regarded as belonging to the Chester Circuit, there 
being at that time no Shrewsbury or Salop Circuit, 
no Stafford or Staffordshire Circuit, no Madeley or 
Wellington Circuit ; and John Fletcher was, therefore, 
put down for Chester. (N.) 

The sequel was very touching. The Conference of 

1785 closed on Wednesday, August 3rd. Eleven days 
afterwards Mr. Fletcher, who had been in feeble health 
for some time, but unremitting in labour, passed away. 

Melville Horne had been received on trial at the 
preceding Conference. When he had been an itinerant 
for three years he obtained episcopal ordination and 
became Curate of Madeley. His name, however, is 
found on the Minutes as Supernumerary at Wolver- 
hampton as late as 1788. He published in 1791 a 


collection of Fletcher's letters. He went out as a 
Missionary to' Western Africa, and, on his return to 
England, won considerable distinction. He did not 
retain any formal connection with Methodism in the 
latter part of his life. 

It was quite in accordance with the views of 
Wesley that one steeped in evangelical sentiment and 
trained for the practical work of a preacher should 
take the oversight of a parish. He was no enemy of 
the parish system as such ; and several entries in his 
diary shew the high regard he had for this particular 
parish clergyman. 

The following beautiful and modest letter evidently 
written by Melville Home was published in the 
Magazine for 1791 : — 

Chester, July 14th, 1783. 
Rev. and Dear Sir, 

Mr. F. tells me, he means to recommend me to the Con- 
ference, as a proper person, to take a Circuit next year ; 
which, although I feel as a great honour ; yet for many reasons 
I must hope for the present, may prove ineffectual. After the 
conversation I had with yourself on this subject, when you 
were here ; I would not now trespass further upon your 
valuable time ; but as such a step may possibly give a turn to 
my everlasting interests, I think it my duty to write to you 
upon this occasion, and I trust you will forgive this call upon 
your pastoral character. 

The main objection that occurs to me, is, that I am not 
yet sufficiently anointed for such a mission. It has ever been 
my|misfortune, to have my gifts and grace over-rated by my 
friends, which, through the sad effects of self-love, has often 
well nigh destroyed my soul. My walk is such, that I do not 
always abide in Christ. How unfit then am I to exhort 
others to abide in Him ? How does this deprive a man of 
that dignity, and humble confidence, that is the strength of a 


messenger of the great and holy God ? Can a limb out of 
joint derive nourishment from the nobler parts ? A branch 
severed from its root, have vital sap, bud, blossom, and bear 
fruit ? Yet through grace I am preserved from'gross abomina- 
tion ; but I lamentably feel that this is not enough, when I 
stand up between the living and the dead. Add to this I feel 
a dreadful and shameful ignorance of the letter of God's word, 
without the greatest knowledge of which, I am convinced, I 
labour in vain. 

I believe it my duty also to cultivate my little talents to 
the utmost, in the acquisition of such accessary learning, as 
may enable me, not barely to affirm each sacred truth, but 
scripturally and rationally to explain more clearly to the under- 
standing, and press them more forcibly upon the consciences 
of my hearers; at the same time to vindicate them from 
unreasonable objections and false glosses of men, that gain- 
sayers may be convinced or silenced, and the weak and pious 
strengthened and established. And I conceive I cannot have 
a more convenient time for such improvement, than the time 
of my youth, and before I have fully launched out into the 
main ocean of life. Indeed there are many truths, of which I 
have not the least doubt, yet dare not speak of them, being 
convinced how very weakly I can explain, support or defend 
them. I am also willing to make my coming out a matter of 
calmest deliberation, strongest conviction and most serious 
prayer ; knowing that nothing less can support me under the 
various and trying exercises I shall meet with ; and conciliate 
the approbation of the best of parents. 

I can appeal to God that I know of no other motives that 
influence me. Mr. F has put the supposition to me, that I 
might be desired to take a Circuit, and asked, in such a case, 
'' What would you do ? " I answered, " Endeavour to lay 
myself in the Lord's hands, seek His will, and then act agree- 
ably to the sacred rights of conscience." May God, even the 
Father of Jesus Christ, bless you with a fulness of all 
spiritual blessings in his Son ; and I pray you believe me 
with truest respect, gratitude and love, Rev. and very dear Sir, 

Your ever affectionate and obliged Child and Servant, 



Richard Bodda was a Cornishman, converted to 
God in early life under the influence of the Methodist 
preachers who visited his father's home. A full account 
of the signal deliverances of his youth, the toils and 
perils of his itinerant life, and the triumphant close of 
his earthly course, may be found in E.M.P., Vol. II 

Concerning James Wray, his brethren recorded in 

1793 :— 

A faithful labourer in the Lord's vineyard. For several 
years he travelled in England with success. His zealous 
spirit then led him across the Atlantic Ocean to Nova Scotia, 
where he was rendered useful in his Master's cause : and, 
lastly, he closed his steady race in the Island of St. Vincent, 
resigning his soul into the hands of his faithful Creator, with 
all that resignation, peace, and holy joy, which might be 
expected from a Father in Christ. 

It is much to be regretted that no particulars have 
been gathered with respect to the parentage, early 
history, and conversion of John Gaulter, who entered 
the ministry from Chester in 1785. The Conference 
obituary, written after his death in 1839, at the age of 
74, declared that he was converted "amidst providential 
visitations of an alarming character which' fell upon 
some of his gay companions." He was an able and 
successful minister, and was elected President at 
Sheffield in 1817. 

1786 : Richard Rodda ; Thomas Brisco ; John 

In several of the older local histories it is stated 
that John Wesley preached in the Octagon Chapel on 
April 10th and nth, 1786. What authority there is for 
the statement does not appear. No doubt the histories 


copy from one another, but it is probable that the first 
author to make the assertion had good ground for it, 
though the Journal does not mention such a visit. 
Wesley was in the vicinity for some time at this date, 
and nothing is more probable than that he paid his 
annual visit of encouragement and inspection to his 
people in Chester. He was certainly in the City in the 
spring of 1787 

Wednesday, April 4th, I went to Chester, and preached in 
the. evening on Heb. iii., 12 [Take heed, brethren, lest there be in 
any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living 
God.] Finding there was no packet at Parkgate, I immedi- 
ately took places in the mail coach for Holyhead. The porter 
called us at two in the morning on Thursday, but came again 
in half an hour to inform us the coach was full : so they 
returned my money, and at four I took a post chaise. We 
overtook the coach at Conway, and crossing the ferry with 
the passengers, went forward without delay. 

On his return journey Wesley landed at Parkgate, 
after deliverance from what had threatened to be a 
terrible shipwreck. 

Wednesday, July nth, 1787. About three in the after- 
noon we came safe to Parkgate ; and in the evening went on 
to Chester. 

Friday 13th, I spent a quiet day, and in the evening 
enforced, to a crowded audience, the parable of the sower. I 
know not that ever I had so large a congregation. 

It is of this journey that Hester Ann Rogers writes 
in her diary : — 

In August, 1787, we came over from Dublin to see my 
mother at Macclesfield. Mr. Wesley and several preachers 
with families also coming at the same time to England, we 
took the whole ship. In this passage we were in imminent 


danger, by dashing on a rock, called the West-Mouse. But 
prayer was made ; the Lord heard, and wonderfully delivered. 
We landed at Parkgate, and travelled with Mr. Wesley to 
Macclesfield. *■ 

1787: Andrew Blair; William Eels; J. Ridall. 

Eels was one of those who expressed their dis- 
satisfaction with Wesley's Deed of Declaration ; he 
speedily withdrew from the work. 

In 1784, Blair's station was Cork; in 1785, 
Birmingham. An interesting reminiscence of work 
accomplished on the journey from one Circuit to 
another is contained in the following extract from a 
letter written from Chester in 1785 by D. Illingworth to 
Mr. A. Kdmondson at Mr. WetherilPs, Churwell, 
near L,eeds : — 

The last time I saw you I did not know of coming 
to Chester. I have had my health very well since I came 
thro Mercy & I am agreeably situated especially for the means 
of grace, there are several precious & lively people in Chester, 
of which you will hear more when I see you. Mr. Blair has been 
in Chester nearly a fortnight, he is very well received & we 
think he is such a preacher as has scarce ever been in Chester 
Octagon before, I am sure if they have any life almost he 
will find it. Mr. Wesley called at Chester in his road to the 

Very probably the good impression made was 
reported to Wesley, and brought about Blair's appoint- 
ment to Chester. A schedule of the Circuit in the 
handwriting of Andrew Blair is still extant. The MS. 

1. In the Bookroom edition of The Experience and Spiritual Letters of Mrs. Hester 
Ann Rogers, from which this extract is taken, 1789 is wrongly given as the 
date of the perilous journey. 




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S( 111 in i.K 01 thk CiiKSir-i; Cikclii, 17KN. 


makes it apparent that he was an adept in penmanship ; 
while a marginal note suggests that he was somewhat 
racy in style. 

Amongst the preachers received on trial at the 
Conference of 1787 was a goodly youth from the neigh- 
bourhood of Chester, who was destined to sit at the 
head of the Conference, and to live to be one of the last 
survivors of the men brought into the work by Wesley 
himself. This was Richard Reece, the son of Mr. John 
Reece of Brereton Park, x near Tarporley, whose name 
is found upon a later page as one of the Octagon 
Trustees appointed in 1806. Mr. John Reece married 
Miss Catharine Hodson, of Christleton, whose father 
was " a man of singular probity, industry, and honour." 
Their first born son, Richard, was born December TSt, 
1765. The family was deemed to be Welsh in its origin ; 
indeed Dr. Gregory assigned them to the princely 
family of Rhys. But the ingenious Doctor's fancy some- 
times ran away with him. John Reece joined the 
Society in 1773, the non-inclusion of his name in the 
list for 1790, elsewhere given, being probably due to 
an oversight. His earliest religious helpers and friends 
were such men as Guildford, Brisco, Mason, Roberts, 
Murlin, and Swindells. The last ten years of his life 
were spent in Chester, where he died in 1831, being 
then nearly 88 years of age. He is buried in St. John's 
Churchyard, where also lies his wife who died in 1836 
at the age of 93. 

Richard Reece seems to have been at the school of 
Mr. Hobrow, a Chester Methodist, who took him to the 

1. On the gable end of a farm at Brereton Park, occupied by Mrs. W. Dutton, 
there is a stone inscribed R.R., I.M., 1717. This was, it appears, the ancestral 
home of the Reeces. 


Octagon. The gqpd influences brought to bear upon 
the lad were consummated by the preachers who 
visited Tarvin, and preached in the large kitchen at 
Brereton. Duncan Wright was a great help to young 
Richard Reece when he was first turning to God, and 
induced him to lead a class within a few miles of his 
father's house. 

In 1787, Richard Reece chose his vocation, and 
went over to Manchester to consult Wesley, with the 
result already mentioned. In 1796 he married Hannah, 
the only daughter of Mr. William Marsden of Man- 
chester, thus becoming the brother-in-law of the Rev. 
George Marsden, who was President in 1821 and 1831. 
His only son was Richard Marsden Reece, for many 
years a prominent L,ondon Methodist lawyer. In 1821 
his only surviving daughter married a Mr. Urlin at 
the old Parish Church at L,eeds. She became the 
mother of Mr. R. Denny Urlin, of the Middle Temple, 
who has recently published an interesting little volume, 
Father Reece, the old Methodist Minister (Klliot Stock, 
1901.) Many of these particulars are derived from this 
book, supplemented by scattered references in the 
Magazine. Mr. Urlin speaks of a number of biographi- 
cal scraps left by Mr. Reece, and says that it appears 
that he paid an annual visit to his native neighbour- 
hood. In 1815 he preached anniversary sermons at 

Richard Reece was President in 18 16 and 1835. 
He died in 1850, having travelled 59 years without 
interruption. A most interesting sketch of his life 
and character is contained in Sketches of Wesleyan 
Preachers, New York, 1848, by Robert A. West, who 


speaks of him as being " like the ancient patriarchs," 
and "a lovely blending of beauty, authority and 
courtesy." One brother of Richard Reece, Joseph, 
lived a long and honoured life at Tarporley, where 
his labours as a medical man were recognised on his 
retirement by a handsome testimonial from the in- 
habitants of a wide district. Another brother, John, 
passed away at Whitchurch in 1855, after fifty years of 
service as a local preacher. 


Ok later visits or 3obn Wesley 
Cbe formation of tbe metbodist Hew Connexion* 

1788— 1797- 

TO the Methodists of the period this history has now 
reached John Wesley must have appeared as an 
institution, much in the same way as Queen Victoria, 
in later days, came to be regarded as one of the per- 
manent forces of the universe. None the less the 
shadow of the end was over the visits now to be 

Wesley was greatly affected by the death of his 
brother Charles, the poet of Methodism, which took 
place on March 9th, 1788. The work of Charles 
Wesley as an itinerant was at no time so extensive as 
that of his brother ; and for the latter part of his life 
he was practically stationary. It does not appear that 
he ever had any direct contact with the Methodists of 
Chester, except at a possible visit in 1747. (See John 
Bennet's letter in Chapter ii.) 

The death of his brother did not check the 
journeyings of the veteran evangelist, and he was soon 
in Chester again. 


Monday, April 14th, 1788, I preached at noon at North- 
wich to such a congregation as scarcely was ever seen there 
before ; and had a good hope, that after all the storms, good 
will be done here also. In the evening I preached to the 
affectionate congregation at Chester, who want nothing but 
more life and fire. 

Tuesday, 15th, I was desired to preach upon the Trinity : 
the Chapel was sufficiently crowded: and surely God answered 
for Himself to all candid hearers. 

1788 : Robert Roberts ; George Lowe ; Thomas Brisco. 

There were 600 members in the Circuit. George 
Lowe received altogether three appointments to Chester, 
viz. : — 1788, 1791, 1802. His life was a very long one, 
extending from the reign of George II. into the second 
year of Queen Victoria (1750 — 1839). When, in his 
ninetieth year, he was residing as a Supernumerary in 
the town of Congleton, his recollections were detailed 
to the ministers assembling for the District meeting 
and were put into book form by Alexander Strachan. 

Mr. IyOwe was born at Levenshulme, whence 
his father removed to the neighbourhood of Maccles- 
field. It was from the preachers appointed to the 
Circuit that Geo. Lowe received the impressions which 
resulted in his conversion ; Samuel Bardsley, then a 
local preacher, was the direct agent therein. He did 
not enter the work of the ministry until he had reached 
maturity ; on receiving his first appointment in 1788 he 
was 38 years of age, a widower with two children. The 

following quotation from the "Life and Times of the 
Rev. George Lowe" by Alexander Strachan, bears upon 
his work in Chester during his first appointment, which 
only lasted for one year as the Chaster people were 


under obligation to take a married preacher at the end 
of the year : — 

On arriving in Chester he found himself in somewhat 
difficult circumstances ; but he entered upon his public duty 
" determined not to know anything among men, save Jesus 
Christ and him crucified." On the morning of the first 
Lord's day he preached from — " Ask and ye shall receive, 
that your joy may be full." On commencing his sermon, he 
observed the preceptors of two classical academies, with their 
pupils, seated before the pulpit. The appearance of so much 
intelligence and learning almost deprived him of the power of 
utterance. In a short time, however, he recovered his self- 
possession ; and poured forth upon his hearers such a stream 
of evangelical sentiment, and with such rapidity and fervour, 
that they were both surprised and affected. 

He entered the pulpit in the evening painfully apprehen- 
sive lest he should not be able to reach the same elevation of 
feeling, nor enjoy the same liberty of speech nor succeed in 
producing the same visible effects upon the people as in the 
morning ; but it seemed to himself, and to those who heard 
him, as if the Lord had said — " From this day I will bless 
thee." He selected John iii., 36, as the subject of his dis- 
course : " He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: 
and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; but the 
wrath of God abideth on him." While he explained the 
nature of faith and unbelief and described their effects upon 
the experience and destiny of man a sacred influence pervaded 
the congregation and many were constrained to exclaim 
" what must we do to be saved." Mr. Lowe's attention was 
particularly directed to a young man, whose convictions were 
so deep, and his distress of mind so great, that he appeared 
for some time, to be in convulsions. The friends cried to God 
in his behalf; and he soon found " peace in believing." This 
young man was subsequently called to the ministry; and, 
after a brief career of fidelity and usefulness, '• died in the 


The labours and successes of this first sabbath gave a 
fresh impulse to the faith and zeal of the preacher. He 
renewed his covenant with God, and again consecrated his 
time and talents to the service of the Church. He carefully 
considered the number and relative importance of the various 
duties devolving upon him, on the one hand, and the expecta- 
tions and claims of God's people on the other, and resolved to 
be conscientious and punctual in everything. The salvation 
of men, the primary object of the Christian ministry filled his 
mind and absorbed all the physical and intellectual capabilities 
of the man. He continued his practice of early rising and 
prosecuted his morning studies with such method and judg- 
ment, that his " profiting " was as obvious to others, as it 
was beneficial to himself. 

It was under Mr. L,owe's ministry in this year 
that Mrs. Warren (whose life is referred to at length 
on another page of this history) was converted and 
added to the Society. 

On his way to Ireland in 1789, Wesley went direct 
from Shrewsbury to Conway without passing through 
Chester. On his return he left Dublin in the Princess 
RoyaL of Parkgate [Captain Brown], "the neatest and 
most elegant packet I ever saw." 

Tuesday, July 14th, 1789. We landed between four and 
five in the morning, and after resting an hour I went to 
Chester. I lodged at T. Brisco's, a lovely family indeed, just 
such another as Miss B's. at Keynsham. The children indeed 
are not quite so genteel, but fully as much awakened ; and I 
think the most loving I ever saw. The House was thoroughly 
filled in the evening (it being fair-time), as well the following 

Thursday, 16th, When I took my leave of the family, 
they came all in tears. It is long since I saw the like. About 
noon I preached to a large and much affected congregation at 


Northwich. A flame is lately broken out here, such as was 
never seen here before. In the evening I preached at Man- 

Thomas Brisco was a Chester man, whose name 
has already been mentioned in these pages, first as a 
pious lad influencing Robert Roberts for good, and then 
as a stationed preacher. He was one of the fruits of 
Methodist preaching ; and served the Connexion for 
about thirty years. At the time now referred to he was 
a Supernumerary. He died in 1797. He was a man of 
many afflictions, being subject to extreme nervous 
debility, so that for many years he could not take a 
Circuit. His disorder was occasioned by lying in a 
damp bed, and by poor accommodations in the country 
parts of Ireland (Atmore, p. 67.) In Wesley's will the 
name of Thomas Brisco appears as one of four persons 
between whom was to be equally divided " whatever 
money remains in my bureau and pockets at my 

The wife and daughters of T. Brisco established a 
ladies' boarding school in Chester, which existed in the 
early part of the nineteenth century. The children 
who so pleased Wesley did not remain in connection 
with Methodism after the death of their parents. The 
sisters in time separated ; one conducting her school in 
Abbey Green, and the other in Stanley Place. 

It was in the quiet happy home at Chester that 
Wesley wrote the following instructive letter to a 
notable American Methodist : the Rev. Freeborn 
Garrettson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church of 


Chester, July 15th, 1789. 
My Dear Brother, 

You are entirely in the right. There can be no manner 
of doubt, that it was the enemy of souls that hindered your 
sending me your experience. Many parts both of your inward 
and outward experience ought by no means to be suppressed. 
But if you are minded to send anything to me, you have no 
time to lose. Whatever you do for me, you must do quickly ; 
lest death have quicker wings than love. A great man 
observes that there is a three-fold leading of the Spirit. Some 
He leads by giving them, on every occasion, apposite texts of 
Scripture ; some by suggesting reasons for every step they 
take, the way by which he chiefly leads me ; and some by im- 
pressions: But he judges the last to be the least desirable 
way ; as it is often impossible to distinguish dark impressions 
from divine, or even diabolical. I hope you will not long 
to delay write more particularly to 

Your affectionate friend and brother, 


On this occasion doubtless was written also the 
letter to Mr. Henry Eames wrongly dated in Works 
XII 4J.1, as July 5th, 1789. 

1789 : Parson Greenwood ; Francis Truscott ; John 
Denton, a Probationer. 

Some account must now be given of the references 
made in the Minutes of this period to Methodist work 
in the Wirral, the peninsula lying between the Mersey 
and the Dee. In the Minnies for 1788 John Hickling 
is appointed to Wirral. In 1789 the numbers in 
Chester and Wirral are given as 599. 

In Andrew Blair's schedule for 1788, and in the 
membership lists for 1790, the names of several places 

1. Works, edit. 1830, XIII., 57 


in the district are mentioned. The sudden appear- 
ance, followed by the equally sudden disappearance, of 
Wirral in the Mi?iutes, and of many of these places 
in the local registers, is explained in the following 
account contributed to the Magazine (1797), by Miles 
Martindale, who was born in 1756 near St. Helens, 
Lancashire. In 1776 he was converted and came to live 
in Liverpool. A few years later he began to preach, 
while still in business. He says : — 

In the year 1786, I went over into the hundred of Wirral, 
in the County of Chester; and preached at a place called 
Storeton, and repeated my visits until a Society was formed. 
Wirral contains upwards of 60 villages, with one small market 
town. There are neither Dissenters, Baptists, nor Quakers ; 
and I think very few Catholics, through the whole country. 
The inhabitants pass for Church-folk ; and they know some 
trifle more of the Bible than of the Alcoran ; but I must 
confess they are the most ignorant people I ever laboured 
among. They chiefly consist of farmers and labourers ; with 
as many mechanics, as these two descriptions of people stand 
in need of. Avarice, and drunkenness, are the two demons 
that undisturbed maintain their sway over this people. I 
found a great desire to spread the Gospel among them, but 
this seemed impracticable while I remained in Liverpool. 
And as I had no money I did not see any probability of main- 
taining myself and family there. However at length I ventured 
over, being firmly persuaded my call was from God, and 
consequently he would provide. The event only can justify 
such a step. I remained there eight months, following my 
business and preaching at all opportunities ; when Mr. Samuel 
Hammond paid a visit to Park-Gate. On riding through the 
country ; and beholding their deplorable state, he entered into 
a resolution with himself to contribute some money towards 
the support of a Missionary in that place. I neither saw him, 
nor heard anything of him, till after his return to Birmingham. 
On his way through Chester, he communicated his design to 


Mr. John Sellers, of that city, whom he deputed to procure a 
person for that purpose. At that time Mr. Sellers and I had 
no intimacy, but some of my friends making mention of me to 
him, I was afterwards made choice of for the Missionary. I 
laboured in Wirral for the space of three years, preaching in a 
great number of places; sometimes abroad, in barns, or in 
houses, as Providence pointed out the way. Sunday Schools 
were also established among them ; and many of the children 
made considerable progress in both reading and writing. In 
the first fifteen months there were joined in the several respec- 
tive Societies about one hundred and fifty persons 
and all things seemed to promise a copious harvest. Those 
who knew the place, and who read this account, will, perhaps, 
be ready to inquire into the reasons of the visible alteration 
which afterwards happened. As no one had so deep a share 
in the business as myself, so no one can be so competent a 
judge of the whole affair as I am. I shall therefore simply 
state my thoughts concerning it. The labour swelling upon 
my hands, it was deemed expedient for me to have an 
assistant. The person called to this work, was without my 
knowledge ; the choice was too precipitate as the event fully 
proved. He never understood the office of a minister of 
Jesus Christ. He loved to hear news, to retail scandal, 
sow discord, to tell lies, and in short, proved one of the most 
mischievous creatures on earth. ; . Some few 

persons are still standing, some are gone to glory, and 
some are removed to Liverpool and other places, who 
I trust will continue to pursue the one thing needful ; 
but the far greater part are fallen away. I am fully per- 
suaded that the mission should have been kept up for seven 
years; changing the person if need had been, every two or 
three years. I am inclined to think, with submission 

to my Brethren the Conference, that if they were inclined to 
expend a small sum there for a few years, it might answer a 
most valuable purpose. The local situation of Wirral, requires 
a resident among them, in order to do them any lasting good. 
And I earnestly recommend it to the lovers of souls, who have 


this world's goods, to take it into consideration. But I 
would observe this falling away did not happen during my 
residence among them. In the year 1789 I was appointed by 
the Conference to labour in the Leicester Circuit. 

And so Miles Martindale passed into the itinerant 
ministry in which he won for himself a good degree. 
The name of the unsatisfactory assistant does not 
appear. Probably the appointment was not made by 
the Conference. Certainly the offender cannot have 
been John Hickling whose long career terminated on 
November 9th, 1858. He lived to be the last surviving 
minister of all called into the work by Wesley himself. 
He was 93 when he died, having remained in harness 
to the end. 

The next year Wesley paid his last visit to Chester. 
More than half a century had passed away since he first 
visited Alpraham, forty eight years had elapsed since he 
preached in Mr. Jones' house in I^ove L-ane, and in the 
open air near St. John's Church. During this period 
he had visited Chester more than thirty times and had 
witnessed a remarkable extension of the work of God 
in the district. It can be imagined therefore with what 
eagerness he would now be welcomed by a large number 
in Chester as in all parts of Great Britain and Ireland. 
The tide of obloquy had long turned, and the noble 
man was honoured by all classes of the community. 

The day upon which he entered Chester for the 
last time was one of activity almost incredible when 
the age of the preacher is taken into account. It 
would be a fair day's work for a strong man, even in 
these days of comfortable trains. The subject on 
which he preached, in itself appropriate for Easter, 


would derive peculiar solemnity for the people from 
the thought that they could hardly hope to see their 
aged friend again ; and the words would recur to 
their minds and prove a solace when tidings of his 
death reached Chester a year later. 

Easter Monday, April 5th, 1790, [Setting out from 
Manchester, where he had preached twice on the Sunday and 
had helped in a sacramental service at which there were 
sixteen hundred communicants.] Calling at Altringham, I 
was desired to speak a few words to the people in the New 
Chapel : but almost as soon as I got thither, the house was 
filled, and soon after more than filled, so that I preached on 
I. Peter, i., 3, and many praised God with joyful lips. About 12 
I preached in the Chapel at Northwich, to a large and lively 
congregation : and in the evening met once more with our old 
affectionate friends at Chester. I have never seen this Chapel 
more crowded than to night ; but still it could hardly contain 
the congregation. Both this and the following evening I was 
greatly assisted to declare the power of Christ's resurrection, 
and to exhort all that were risen with Him to set their affections 
on things above. Here I met with one of the most extraordin- 
ary phenomena that I ever saw or heard of. Mr. Sellers has 
in his yard a large Newfoundland dog, and an old raven ; these 
have fallen deeply in love with each other, and never desire to 
be apart. The bird has learnt the bark of the dog, so that few 
can distinguish them. She is inconsolable when he goes out, 
and if he stays out a day or two, she will get up all the bones 
and scraps she can, and hoard them up for him, till he comes 
back 1 

Mr. Sellers was a schoolmaster, who served God 
among the Methodists as a Local Preacher and Class 
Leader. Although quite a young man, he predeceased 
the venerable John Wesley; on May 30th, 1790, he 
passed away, aged 32. It is most instructive to note 
with what open eyes and receptive mind Wesley looked 


upon the world *even in these last months of failing 
strength. The Rev. George Marsden, a President of 
the Conference, and brother-in-law of Richard Reece, 
was a pupil of Mr, Sellers. He it was who placed the 
tablet in St. John Street Chapel to the memory of his 
instructor. The Rev. W B. Marsden, Vicar of St. 
John's Church, Chester, was a nephew of George 
Marsden. This Church the pupils of Mr. Sellers 
attended, there being no Methodist service in Church 
hours until a later period. 

Interesting reminiscences of these later visits are 
furnished by Matthew Harrison — 

Wesley's domicile latterly in Chester was with Mr. J. 
Walker, a silversmith, the grandfather of the present Town 
Clerk. The late Mr. George Walker, Wine Merchant, had a 
distinct recollection of Wesley's visits to his father's house, 
and gave some striking instances of Wesley's determined 
adherence to method and order. As an instance of this he 
related that when, as was usual, a company was invited to 
meet the revered founder, no interest or persuasion could pre- 
vail on him to delay his early retiring, but at his usual time, 
with the greatest ease and politeness, after family worship, he 
left the company with his patriarchal benediction. 

The late Mr. Richard Taylor, senior, was in the habit of 
leading the singing at the Octagon on Wesley's visits. Mr. 
Taylor was a member of the Queen Street Independent 
Church, but always on these occasions gave the Octagon con- 
gregation his valuable aid. i 

A further reference is made to the subject in the 
obituary of a minister's wife who died in 1847. She 
was born in Chester about 1776, and was the daughter 
of Mr. S. Walker, a local preacher. " During her early 
years the Rev. John Wesley occasionally stayed at her 

1. Cheshire Sheaf. Ser.I. Vol. III.p i66, (1891.) 


father's house. On one of these interesting occasions 
that eminent man who was particularly fond of children, 
placed his hand on her head, and solemnly invoked a 
blessing upon her." Rhoda Walker was convinced of 
sin under the preaching of James Macdonald; she was 
not however converted in Chester but in Liverpool 
where she received her first ticket from Henry Moore 
in 1800. In 1804 she married James B. Holroyd, who 
subsequently became a minister. In the Chester 
membership list for 1804, or thereabouts, appear the 
names of James and Rhoda Holroyd. The name of 
Walker was common in Chester Methodism, and the 
relationship between the different families cannot be 
stated. Unfortunately no memoir of Mr. George Walker, 
Wine Merchant, the first Steward of St. John Street 
Chapel, has come to hand. Such would have cleared 
up several points. 

1790 : Parson Greenwood ; Richard Seed ; John Wil- 

The latter was regarded as eccentric in his preaching 
but proved a worthy and faithful worker till 1818. 

Another Cheshire lad was received into the ranks of 
the ministry at the Conference of this year ; John Dean, 
who was born at Rowton in 1765. He was a convert of 
the itinerant preachers who visited his native village. 
He was made a leader in 1788, and after his call to 
travel laboured till 1822. 

On March 2nd, 1791, occurred the long dreaded 
but inevitable event : John Wesley passed away in the 
eighty-eighth year of his age. George Walker says : — 
"His Societies did uniformly wear mourning for 


several months after his decease." This gives a hint as 
to the feeling in Chester, where Wesley must have 
been better known than in any other town of the 
kingdom, except the two or three great Methodist 
centres. Myles says in his Chronological History of the 
Methodists (1813 edn., p. 187), "Thousands of the 
people, with all the travelling preachers, went into 
mourning for him. The pulpits, and many of the 
chapels, not only in the Methodist Connexion, but in 
others also, were hung with black cloth. In every 
place something was said by way of funeral sermon, 
and in many places discourses were preached on jthe 
same subject which were afterwards published." 

1791 : Parson Greenwood ; James Thorn ; George Lowe. 

The exceptional nature of the Superintendent's 
case appears from the resolution passed at this Confer- 
ence to the effect that " No preacher shall be stationed 
for any Circuit above two years successively; unless 
God has been pleased to use him as the instrument of 
a remarkable revival." 

The removal of the paternal autocrat of Methodism 
caused many questions which had been in abeyance 
during his lifetime to clamour for settlement. The 
pressure of these problems was keenly felt in Chester, 
as will appear from the following pages. The three 
main matters were : — 

1 . The relation of the Preachers to each other. 

2. The relation of Methodism to existing 
Churches, especially to that established by law. 

3. The relation of the Preachers to the people 
within Methodism. 


The first point was already in process of solution. 
Wesley's Deed of Declaration had constituted one 
Hundred Preachers the I^egal Conference in which were 
vested the powers wielded by himself for so many years. 
The restriction of number had given offence to a few 
who were not included, and there had been four 
secessions on that account ; yet the arrangement seems 
to have met with general approbation. Wesley foresaw, 
and tried to prevent, possible usurpation of power on 
the part of the " Hundred." A letter from him, written 
six years previously, but delayed by his instructions 
till the Conference after his death, was produced at the 
Manchester Conference by Joseph Bradford, who was 
Wesley's travelling companion for many years and had 
been with him at the last. The extreme importance of 
the letter is obvious ; its suitability for inclusion here is 
due to the fact that Wesley wrote it in Chester during 
his hurried journey to Ireland in the spring of 1785. 

Chester, April 7th, 1785. 
To the Methodist Conference. 
Mv Dear Brethren, 

Some of our travelling Preachers have expressed a fear, 
That after my Decease you would exclude them, from either 
preaching in connexion with you, or from some other privileges 
which they now enjoy. I know no other way to prevent any 
such inconvenience, than to leave these my last words with 

I beseech you by the mercies of God, that you never 
avail yourselves of the Deed of Declaration, to assume any 
superiority over your Brethren ; but let all things go on, 
among those itinerants who chuse to remain together, exactly 
in the same manner as when I was with you, so far as 
Circumstances will permit. 


In particular I beseech you, if you ever loved me, and if 
you now love Go6 and your brethren : to have no respect of 
persons, in stationing the Preachers, in chusing Children for 
Kingswood-school, in disposing of the Yearly Contribution 
and the Preachers' Fund, or any other public Money. But do 
all things with a single eye, as I have done from the beginning. 
Go on thus, doing all things without prejudice or partiallity, 
and God will be with you even to the end. 


"This letter seemed like a voice from heaven. 
The Conference at once swept away all jealousies by a 
unanimous resolution, according every privilege con- 
ferred by the Deed of Declaration to all preachers in 
full connexion." 1 

This decision has been adhered to, without devia- 
tion, down to the present time. 

Under the second head the chief practical points 
arising were : the administration of the Sacraments by 
the Methodist preachers ; and the holding of public 
services during Church hours. The original ideal of 
John Wesley, so far as he had one, was that his 
Societies should remain within the pale of the Anglican 
Church ; and, therefore, receive the Sacraments at the 
hands of the parish Clergy. Before his death, how- 
ever, such an ideal had become impracticable, largely 
through the intolerance of the Bishops and Clergy. 
Yet Wesley desired that there should be no formal and 
declared separation in his day ; the future he would 
leave to the wisdom of his sons in the Gospel and to 
the overruling providence of God. The question was 
passed over by the Conference of 1791 ; the three 
Chester preachers of that year, having gained the 

1. Telford's John Wetley, p. 369. 


esteem of the people, managed to maintain peace in 
their Circuit. 

The Conference of 179 1 divided English Methodism 
into nineteen districts. Chester, Macclesfield, and 
Burslem made up the Chester District. Various ar- 
rangements took place from time to time. The work 
in North Wales was at first in the Chester District, 
Ruthin being one of its component Circuits in 1800-1-2. 
In 1803 the North Wales District was formed, com- 
prising Welshpool, Wrexham, Ruthin, and Carnarvon, 
In 1808 a Shrewsbury District was formed, and 
Wrexham was taken over from the Chester District. 
In 18 13 Chester was still the head of a District 
containing eleven Circuits and one Mission. In 1814 
the distinction of being a District town was taken from 
Chester and the Circuit was assigned to the Liverpool 
District, to which it has belonged ever since. 

1792 : Francis Wrigley ; Richard Condy ; James Thorn. 

The following rules were passed by the preachers 
at the Conference : — 

Q 21. What rule shall be made concerning the adminis- 
tration of the Lord's Supper? A. The Lord's Supper shall 
not be administered by any person among our Societies in 
England and Ireland for the ensuing year, on any considera- 
tion whatsoever, except in London. 

Q 23. What rule shall be made concerning the service in 
the church hours ? A. The service shall not be performed in 
any new place in the church hours in future, without the 
consent of the Conference first obtained. 

The following remarkable letter was also issued to 
the Societies : — 

To the Members of our Societies, who desire to receive the 
Lord's Supper from the hands of their own Preachers. 


Very Dear Brethren, 

The Conference desires us to write to you, in their name, 
in the most tender and affectionate manner, and to inform you 
of the event of their deliberation concerning the administration 
of the Lord's Supper. 

After debating the subject time after time, we were greatly 
divided in sentiment. In short, we knew not what to do, that 
peace and union might be preserved. At last one of the senior 
brethren (Mr. Pawson) proposed that we should commit the 
matter to God by putting the question to the lot, considering 
that the Oracles of God declare, that " the Lot causeth con- 
tentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty." And 
again, that "the Lot is cast into the lap, but the whole 
disposing thereof is of the Lord." And considering also that 
we have the example of the Apostles themselves, in a matter, 
which we thought, all things considered, of less importance. 
We accordingly prepared the Lots ; and four of us prayed. 

God was surely then present, yea, his glory filled the 
room. Almost all the Preachers were in tears, and, as they 
afterwards confessed, felt an undoubted assurance that God 
himself would decide. Mr. Adam Clarke was then called on 
to draw the Lot, which was, "You shall not administer the 
Sacrament the ensuing year." All were satisfied. All sub- 
mitted. All was Peace. Every countenance seemed to testify 
that every heart said, "It is the Lord, let him do what 
seemeth him good." A minute was then formed according to 
the previous explanation of the Lots, that the Sacrament 
should not be administered in our Connexion, for the ensuing 
year, except in London. The prohibition reaches the Clergy 
of the Church of England as well as the other brethren. We 
do assure you, dear brethren, we should have been perfectly 
resigned, if the Lot had fallen on the other side. Yea, we 
should, as far as Christian prudence and expediency would 
have justified, have encouraged the administration of the 
Lord's Supper by the Preachers ; because we had not a doubt 
but God was uncommonly present on this occasion, and did 
himself decide. Signed, in behalf of the Conference, 

Alexander Mather, President. 

Thomas Coke, Secretary. 


The Methodists of Chester were divided into two 
camps. The three preachers walked by the Conference 
rules, though probably desiring greater freedom and 
conscious that its attainment could not long be deferred. 

They declined to administer the Sacraments them- 
selves, in the Octagon Chapel, or to allow anyone else 
to do so ; nor would they hold any public service during 
Church hours. These restraints were intolerable to 
those of the Chester Methodists who believed that God 
had constituted them a Christian Church. There was 
sharp contention on the points at issue between the two 
parties. Then appeared the advantage — or disadvan- 
tage — of having a "Room" not connexionally settled. 
In Commonhall Street the " liberal " party were allowed 
the privileges denied them at the Octagon. 

1793: John Booth; Richard Condy; Samuel Bardsley. 

1794 : John Booth ; Owen Davies; Thomas Hemmins. 

As no concession satisfactory to the "liberal" 
party had been made, and the new preachers carried 
out the " Old Plan " of not administering the Sacrament 
unless by the unanimous request of the Society (which 
was not forthcoming in Chester), they took a decided 
step towards making the separation final by the 
purchase of a site in Trinity L,ane for the erection of a 
building which was known, for a time at least, as an 
Independent Methodist Chapel. The old account book, 
still extant, shews James Parry to have been the first 
Treasurer ; in 1800 he was succeeded by Thomas L,owe ; 
John Bradford and George Preston also being early 
holders of that office. The accounts were kept in the 
same book right down to 1835. 


The total cost of the enterprise was ^871 16s. yd. 
The subscription list only amounted to £183. In 
addition to the local helpers the following names 
appear, indicating that these friends were not without 
sympathisers in high quarters. Dr. Coke : One Guinea. 
Adam Clark[e] : One Guinea. 

On the expenditure side are several items incurred 
in providing drink, " at the rearing of the gallery," and 
on other occasions. 

1795 : James Macdonald ; William Simpson ; Joseph 

1796 : John Goodwin ; Robert Crowther ; Richard 


1797 : John Goodwin ; Robert Crowther ; Isaac Lilly. 

A regulation was added in the Minutes, 1795, to the 
^effect that "the single men in Chester and Liverpool 
are to change every six weeks." 

This year was more peaceful ; the new preachers 
were happily untouched by the personal feelings which 
had been aroused. The Conference had discussed the 
" Plan of Pacification" ; and the preachers were able to 
report that the members of the Conference had reached 
substantial agreement among themselves, and had been 
able to satisfy the representatives of the Trustees, with 
whom they had held frequent communication. A 
modus vivendi was arrived at in Chester. It was agreed 
that there should be no alteration at the Octagon 
Chapel ; but at the Chapel in Trinity I^ane the preachers 
appointed by the Conference should preach, administer 
the Sacraments, and perform all ministerial offices ; and 


that the hours of service therein should be determined 
only by the convenience of the preachers and people. 

But peace did not prevail for long. The financial 
burdens resting upon the Society were much increased 
by the erection of the new Chapel, and recriminations 
ensued. These difficulties, it appears, might have been 
overcome had not the third of the questions mentioned 
above, exercised its disturbing influence at this stage. 
In dealing with the controversies of this troublesome 
time, it should never be forgotten that the lurid flames 
of the French Revolution coloured everything. The 
people were afraid lest the preachers might be tempted 
to imitate the priestly despotism of Rome ; the preachers 
trembled lest subjection to a multitude should diminish 
their proper authority as overseers of the Church. The 
personal matters centreing round Alexander Kilham 
further complicated the whole affair. 

The following extracts from the Minutes of 1796 
will shew with what results the Chester case came 
before the Conference. It is to be remembered that 
Chester was one of the very few places where there was 
at this early period a Chapel beyond Conference control. 

Q. 27. What was the determination of the Conference 
concerning the various petitions and addresses which they 
received ? 

A. 1. They were all read in full Conference, and a com- 
mittee appointed to examine them, and make a report to the 
Conference. The committee consisted of the nine who formed 
the plan of pacification, except that the president took Dr. 
Coke's place (the Doctor being gone to America) ; and the 
preachers of Chester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Bristol, were 
present when the case of those Circuits was considered. 


A. 3. The case of Chester was fully explained, and the 
assistant declaring, that, " writing to the trustees of the new- 
chapel would signify nothing, unless they had what they 
desired," the Committee could proceed no further : but con- 
sidered them as not under our care or direction at present. 
At the request of the Chester assistant and some 
other brethren, who had reconsidered the Chester business, the 
Conference ordered a letter to be written to the trustees of the 
new-chapel, similar to the one sent to Bristol. But no answer 
has been received. 

From these paragraphs it appears that the sup- 
porters of Trinity Lane were placing themselves in 
opposition not merely to those who wished to avoid 
acts of separation from the Establishment ; but also to 
the general body of the preachers. When in 1796 
Alexander Kilham refused to agree to the " Plan of 
Pacification," it was finally determined that he could 
have no place in our Connexion while he continued in 
his present opinions. At the Conference of 1797 the 
breach became final, and about 5000 members seceded 
and formed the New Connexion, in which Mr. Kilham 
was for some time the leading spirit. The Society and 
congregation worshipping in the Chapel in Trinity 
Lane united themselves to the secessionists, and thus, 
before the end of the eighteenth century, the Method- 
ism of Chester underwent division. Chester was one 
of the original Seven Circuits of the New Connexion ; 
the other six were Leeds, Sheffield, Hanley, Man- 
chester, Liverpool and North Shields. x 

The loss of members in the Chester Circuit was, as 
might have been expected, beyond the average of the 
Connexion. In 1796, 800 members were reported ; 660 
only in 1798. 

1. The Jubilee of the Methodist New Connexion, 1848. 


The remarkable fact has been brought out in the 
foregoing story that the New Connexion cause in 
Chester is really older than the New Connexion itself. 

The agitation in Chester continued till 1806 when 
the Sacrament was administered and Church hours 
adopted at the Octagon. 

The above-mentioned Plan of Pacification which 
was agreed to in 1795 contained the following pro- 
visions, amongst others : — 

1. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper shall not be 
administered in any Chapel except the majority of the Trustees 
of that Chapel on the one hand, and the majority of the 
Stewards and Leaders belonging to that Chapel (as the best 
qualified to give the sense of the people) on the other hand, 
allow of it. Nevertheless, in all cases, the consent of the 
Conference shall be obtained before the Lord's Supper be 

2. Wherever there is a Society, but no Chapel, if the 
majority of the Stewards and Leaders of that society testify, 
that it is the wish of the people that the Lord's Supper should 
be administered to them, their desire shall be gratified: pro- 
vided, that the consent of the Conference be previously 

It would seem that at least one of the smaller 
Societies in the Chester Circuit availed themselves of 
these provisions before the City congregation did so: 
for in 1802 it is recorded that Great Saughall petitioned 
the Conference for the administration of the Sacrament 
amongst them, and that their request was granted. 
Horseley (1800), and L,eighton (1802), may. perhaps, be 
the places so named which are referred to in the 
appendix of this book. 

It would be altogether impracticable to endeavour 
to apportion the rights and wrongs of this protracted 


dispute. Several extracts are added here which the 
reader will probably find of interest, and from which 
may be seen how many were the cross currents and to 
what height the feelings of the contending parties rose. 
Happily all the old heat has long since passed away, 
and the two communities work side by side in perfect 

The following matter, to the end of the verses, is 
gathered from Kilham's Monitor: — 

To the Methodist Societies throughout Great Britain and 


Chester, Nov. 14th, 1796. 
Dear Brethren, 

Many friends, in a number of places where our printed 
letter has circulated, are exceeding surprised at the last 
conference refusing to grant our request, when we were 
unanimous in our application to the preachers, for service in 
church hours, and the sacrament. In order to give them all 
the satisfaction we can upon the subject, we shall just relate 
the following particulars : — 

At the Manchester Conference, the preachers requested 
we would be satisfied with preaching at nine o'clock in 
summer, and half past nine in forenoon in winter, and 
half past one in the afternoon ; with the sacrament from a 
neighbouring assistant. For the sake of peace we complied 
with their request. But the trustees of the Octagon Chapel 
refused to be connected with us if the sacrament was adminis- 
tered at all, in Trinity Chapel. We received a number of 
letters from respectable preachers, requesting, for the sake of 
peace that we would, for one year, submit to be without the 
sacrament. When the district meeting, held on the occasion, 
determined, it should not be administered the last year, we 
submitted ; being encouraged to hope, by the preachers of the 
district, and others, that our request would be fully granted at 
the last conference. At the district meeting, held in Maccles- 
field, prior to the conference, the preachers recommended to 

1 63 

the conference, for us to have service in church hours, and the 

In order that the subject might be fully understood, we 
printed the particulars of our case, and inferred from the 
pacific plan, that it was impossible for the conference to refuse 
oar lawful request, without violating the rules they had 
published in Manchester, the year before. As the preachers 
had an opportunity of examining our case as stated in the 
printed letter, before the business was brought on in the con- 
ference, we were led to hope, that they would at once respect 
their own rules, chearfuliy [sic] grant the privileges we 
requested. But, to our astonishment, the following letter 
entirely destroyed our hopes, and left us in despair of 
immediate help from that quarter. 

To Mr. Parry, and all concerned in the affairs of Trinity 

Chapel, in Chester. 

London, August 6th, 1796. 
Dear Brethren, 

I am ordered by the conference to inform you, that your 
address was read in the conference, and after some conversa- 
tion on the subject a committee was appointed to take it into 
consideration. Mr. M'Donald spoke in your behalf with much 
earnestness, and a considerable time was spent in debates 
relative to your circumstances. A proposal was made of 
writing to you, to know if you would not give up some part of 
what was contained in your letter. To this Mr. M'Donald 
replied "that nothing less than all you had requested, would 
be accepted by you." The committee could proceed no 
further, but considered you as not under our care or direction 
at present. But this morning, at the request of Mr. M'Donald 
it was agreed, in full conference, to write to you for your final 
answer, whether you will submit to the determination of the 
conference, or not, whatever it may be ? Please to write as 
soon as possible. 

I am, in behalf of the Conference, 
Dear Brethren, 

Your affectionate servant, 

S. Bradburn. 


As this letter gave us no encouragement to hope for the 
privileges we had been led to expect from the conference, we 
thought it unnecessary to write any answer, as we could not 
be trifled with any longer. When the preachers came from 
London, they had orders not to supply us, unless we would 
relinquish our claim, and submit to be deprived of our 
privileges. When we could not in conscience submit to their 
requisition, they refused to preach in our chapel, and forced us 
to seek help from some other quarter. Being resolved to 
support the itinerant plan, we resolved not to fix any minister 
in our chapel for life, but determined to seek supplies from our 
own local preachers. For several weeks we were kindly 
assisted by different friends in the neighbourhood. But the 
winter coming on, and they living at a distance, induced us to 
seek a more regular supply than they could afford us. 

We therefore applied to two persons that had left the 
connexion, and sought help from them. As nothing, in our 
judgment, was alleged against their moral character to pre- 
vent our encouraging them, we agreed to employ them till the 
conference, on condition that they should frequently change, 
and have no power to prevent us from allowing any person to 
preach in the chapel, which we have reason to believe is called 
of God to the ministry, and is approved by us. 

Our situation is such that we wish to unite with the 
connexion in general, could we but have the privileges which 
belong to us as christians. And should the conference con- 
tinue to reject our reasonable requests, when we have not 
only the majorities the pacific plan requires, but are unanimous 
as it refers to leaders, stewards, trustees, and members of the 
Society, we shall hold ourselves in readiness to unite with any 
part of the connexion that will fix a liberal plan, upon scriptur- 
al grounds, to preserve itinerancy among us. 

May the Eternal God direct our steps in the dark and 
cloudy day, that we may glorify His most holy name, and be 
happy for ever ! Brethren, pray for us. 

Signed in behalf of a meeting of trustees, &c, 



P.S. — The following lines, composed by Mr. S. Bradburn's 
brother, descriptive of our state, are inserted for the 
amusement of the reader. 


By R. Bradbum. 

Dear Sister, if such I may venture to call, 

One that has sought so much to accomplish my fall ; 

I pay you this visit, to reason the case, 

And hope to restore you again unto grace. 

I blame your presumption, yet pity your state, 

And would have you repent, before it's too late : 

Then yield to my wishes — again with me dwell, 

Or the whole host of heav'n can't save you from Hell. 

But in mercy I come, to reason, not rail, 

And by justice and kindness I hope to prevail ; 

There are few in my exalted condition, 

But would leave you to sink into endless perdition, 

But now, to be brief, for I would not enlarge, 

One thing I remember you laid to my charge, 

Was the keeping of money to no small amount, 

And refusing to render you any account. 

How silly are you in this manner to prate, 

And how small is your knowledge of church and of state, 

To suppose that the rulers of either will give, 

An account to the people of what they receive. 

Grant that more I receiv'd than was wanting for use, 

Was the keeping of this to you an abuse ; 

Of each holy thing you had all you could want, 

Except candle-light — that I own was but scant ; 

But had there been less, could any evil arise ? 

For who goes to church to hear with his eyes ? 

Besides, from temptation it keeps the mind free, 

For few will be tempted with what they can't see. 


Now for what I have said, don't you see you'r to blame, 
This you surely will own if you have any shame ! 
With regard to my trust, if St. Peter should doubt 
I vow by St. Paul I would soon turn him out ; 
And lest by his keys he should find a way thro*. 
With bolts I'd accomplish what locks cannot do. 
And now I beseech you, your error forsake, 

Accept my free pardon, for J 's sake, 

Contradict what you've said — your schism lay by, 
And then we'll be friendly, if you will comply, 


And is it, dear Sister, to use your own cant, 

And is it submission from me that you want ? 

Do you think by your ranting you reason the case ? 

(Which to a poor Bedlamite would be a disgrace.) 

Let's examine the matter a little more fair, 

And your actions and language together compare. 

Now I tell you what first gave me birth in this place, 

Was neither a want of right reason nor grace ; 

But a firm resolution, with principles pure, 

Your pride and oppression no more to endure. 

What else can you term it, but consummate pride, 

To set up yourself an infallible guide ? 

And what but oppression to stigmatize those, 

Who dare think for themselves, with the title of foes? 

To call them schismatic, and deem them untrue, 

Because they refuse to idolize you ? 

What I said about money you know to be true, 

Nor do you deny it, to give you your due : 

You strive in a dull and a pitiful way 

To act as you please your right to display. 

From whence came your right to what ne'er was your own, 

As no part could be your's may clearly be shown ? 

What the people collected, they gave you in trust, 

What you kept for yourself was surely unjust. 


If a steward should say at the end of the year, 
My lord, by this balance you'll see it quite clear, 
I've nearly in hand five hundred to spare ! 
But this I intend for my own private use, 
For the keeping this sum is to you no abuse. 
I scarcely need say what his lordship would do, 
He'd put him away — as I would do you. 


I suppose now you think you've prov'd all you've said ; 

And thrown all the blame on my guilty head : 

But still let me prove to my cause that I'm true, 

A charge in my turn I'll bring against you ; 

For you know you've set up a sacramenteering, 

Despising the church — at her ministers sneering. 

And said (O the thought, how it tortures my breast), 

That a layman might give it as well as a priest. 

Now I grant that some priests may be wickedly led, 

But remember, the prophet by ravens was fed ! 

Why may we not, then, in a spiritual case, 

By these ravens receive the true manna of grace ? 

What tho' as a chapel from the church I am free, 

Yet the church — the dear church ! answers all things to me. 

Thro' the church I'm receiv'd by the heads of the city, 

Thro' the church I'm oft filled by the gay and the witty ; 

Thro' my faith in the church, by her sons I'm esteemed, 

Nor am I a Dissenter, or Jacobine deem'd. 

You all by your new-plan are left in the lurch, 

Condemned in yourself for despising the church. 

Nay, the heads and the rulers of each absolute sect, 

Will venture, with me, your new plan to reject I 


You talk about rulers in church and in state, 
But who did the rulers in Christ's church create ? 
Not himself — for he solemnly declares in his word, 
That his church is without any ruler or lord : 

1 68 

Except he himself, who is Lord over all, 

By whose grand decision we must stand or fall. 

Did he not appoint, as an emblem most pure, 

Of the sufferings and death he was to endure 

For the sins of the world ? that in love we might join, 

And by eating of bread and drinking of wine, 

Reflect on his merit, and have our souls fed, 

With light, life, and love — the true heavenly bread ? 

Did he ever ordain the time or the place, 

When we in this means should partake of his grace ? 

Some term it a supper, and some as devout, 

May deem it a dinner, without any doubt — 

Whether breakfast, or dinner, or supper it be, 

Our Lord says, " This do in remembrance of me." 

With respect to the place I defy you to find, 

Any place upon earth to which he's confin'd ; 

A house, or a field, he deems not a disgrace, 

Pure worshipping hearts will make sacred the place. 

Then what is the church, pray, for which you contend ? 

To the furtherance of truth does it serve any end ? 

Your leaning upon it only proves you are lame, 

To Jehovah all places and times aie the same. 

A true church of his, is a number of people, 

Whether met in a street, or a place with a steeple, 

United together their homage to pay, 

To the Giver of Life, and the Author of Day. 

You grant that a layman the Gospel may preach, 

And be truely inspired salvation to teach ; 

And yet be not deemed a sufficient divine, 

To give you some bread, or hand you some wine. 

Does not the apostle this doctrine teach ? 

That faith comes by hearing — and to hear one must preach ; 

That all faithful ministers are properly sent, 

Not by man — but by God, for that very intent. 

Now reasou will teach you this truth to express, 

That he who does great things, may do what is less : 


And it surely is greater, by the power of the word, 
To raise up a church to the praise of the Lord, 
Than when it is raised any duty to do, 
That is farther required the ministry through. 


But you know the sanhedrim in a council select, 

Did your plan and yourself together reject ! 

Are those the laymen for whom you contend, 

Who in Christ's church may answer to serve any end ? 

And because that they preach the word of the Lord, 

You suppos'd you might safely rely on their word ; 

And as they had promis'd last year you should be 

This year irom your bonds and fetters set free, 

You seem'd to rejoice e'er the Conference began, 

Surely trusting they'd grant you your favourite plan ; 

But I, who am older, knew better than you, 

And the ways that would gain them did wisely pursue ; 

And tho' with yourself, they revile mother church, 

Yet I knew for all that you'd be left in the lurch : 

Not for want of conviction that you acted well, 

But for reasons I am not at leisure to tell, 

But will leave you to guess — and bid you farewell. 


In the number of preachers at conference join'd, 

Whom you call the Sanhedrim I think you will find, 

Not the voice of the people, or preachers at all, 

But a few that bear rule — the rest are in thrall. 

And in a committee, these powerful few, 

Shewed injustice to me, and their kindness to you : 

But their kindness, however, when well understood, 

Will neither do them nor you any good. 

With respect to their justice, and dealing so fair, 

1 refer you to Kilham, only hear him declare, 

In language of truth what he has to reveal, 

And their uprightness to him, and others you'll feel. 


Read over his tracts with an unprejudiced mind, 

And the mistery of all their proceedings you'll find ; 

Now to him I refer you, for this very end, 

Because I believe him to be such a friend, 

That will teach you such lessons by which you may mend. 


A letter written by Samuel Bradburn to Richard 
Rodda, from Manchester, April 19th, 1792, deals with 
the question of the administration of the Sacrament 
by Methodist preachers ordained for that purpose, and 
speaks of proceedings in Manchester and Iyiverpool. 
Incidentally, Bradburn says : — 

I have been at Chester, where Mr. Bennet [query, 
Thomas Bennett, trustee of the Octagon Chapel] is by no 
means too calm. However, Mr. Parry, the steward, means to 
petition Conference for one ordained preacher to be sent there 
to administer the Lord's Supper to all who wish to receive it, 
leaving the rest to go to the Steeple House for it. x 

There is a further instructive reference to the state 

of affairs in Chester in the memoir of the Rev. Owen 


In the year 1794 he was stationed at Chester, with Mr. 
John Booth, and his own son-in-law, Mr. Hemans ; a man of 
genuine piety and amiable manners ; but one who was unable 
to bear the fatigue of the itinerant life. While Mr. Davies 
was at Chester, his conciliating spirit was put to the test ; as 
the disputes which then prevailed in various parts of the Con- 
nexion were beginning to run high at Chester ; and he was of 
opinion, on a review of things, that the party that had the 
management of affairs did not act with due candour towards 
those who wished for a more liberal plan. Some worthy 
persons by a kind of necessity, as they deemed it, joined a 

1. Proceedings, W.H.S., II., 96. 


party in hostility to the Connexion, for want of those con- 
cessions, which, in a few years subsequent to those events, 
would have been readily made. These warm disputes led to 
the erection of a new chapel in that city ; and in the year 1796 
while Bristol and Leeds were accommodated, the Conference 
was influenced to adopt rather a rigorous proceeding with 
regard to Chester. In the Minutes it is said, " The case 
of Chester was fully explained; and the Superintendent 
declaring, ' That writing to the trustees of the new chapel 
would signify nothing, unless they had what they desired ' ; the 
committee could proceed no further, but considered them as 
not under our care or direction at present." Though this 
was a hard case, as it regarded some worthy characters, those 
inflexible spirits they had to contend with were to be censured 
and not the Conference. 1 

John Gaulter, in his memoir of George Walker, the 
earlier, says : — 

It is well known that a considerable controversy took 
place after the death of Wesley on the propriety of the sacra- 
ments of the Lord's Supper and Baptism being administered in 
the connexion by the regular preachers. To any alteration of 
the ancient practice he strongly objected. He was not alone in 
deprecating the most remote departure from our relation to the 
Established Church. Several of the best and wisest of the 
people, both in Chester afyd other places, were of a similar 
judgment. This produced a severe conflict of opinion. The 
mode which at present prevails was the issue. At the period 
when this subject was highly debated, Mr. Walker suffered no 
inconsiderable degree of abuse, as unmerited as it was acri- 
monious. Certainly we may differ with innocence, but angry 
language is equally unsupported by our reason as men, and 
our creed as Christians. That benevolence of temper which 
led him to forgive insult, induced him to bear with the author 
of this memoir who, for once in his life, had entertained 
different views. But that contrariety neither violated friend- 
ship nor interrupted affection. 2 

1. Mag., 1832, p. 394. 
a. Mag., 1813, p. 491. 


From the standard histories of Methodism it appears 
that Chester shared to the full the unrest of the 

The Trustees of Chester are included amongst 
those who approved the proposition of the Trustees to 
the Conference. Chester was represented by George 
Walker among the Trustees' Delegates who assembled 
to the number of nearly 100 at the Conference of 1795. 1 

In a letter written at this period it is stated that 
" Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester are in a distracted 
state." 2 

It is not possible to give a complete list of the 
members who cast in their lot with the new Connexion. 
But the old records of Trinity L,ane reveal some of the 
names. The old Baptism Register, dated 1794, is the 
most interesting of these records. The first entry 
relates to the baptism of an infant daughter of James 
Parry, who was probably the most notable loss 
sustained by the " old body." 

Martha Ann Parry, born August 7th, 1794, baptised 
August 30th. The second daughter of James Parry, Hosier, 
Parish of St. Peter's, Chester, by Susannah Wright, daughter 
of John Wright, Breeches Maker, Parish of Nantwich, 

The officiating minister was Richard Cundy or 
Condy, then just about to complete his term of service 
in the Chester Circuit. 

The youngest son of this family, James Parry, 
Junior, was a preacher of brilliant promise. The new 
Connexion Conference of 1804 appointed him to 

1. Dr. Smith's History of Methodism, II., pp. 120 & 705. 

2. Life of Joseph Entwistle, p. i\y. 

J 73 

travel. He laboured in several N. C. Circuits, but was 
cut off at an early age, dying in 1808 at the house of 
Mr. Hine, in Ince, " a respectable friend who receives 
the preachers, and has preaching at his house." The 
Rev. Richard Watson, during the period of his 
ministry in the New Connexion, was stationed at Liver- 
pool and seems to have been on friendly terms with 
this Chester family. He contributed a memoir to the 
N. C. Magazine for 1810. 

The next three baptisms were by James Lyons, 
who had ceased to be a Methodist minister in 1792, and 
was one of the persons who had left the Connexion and 
were employed by the friends at Trinity Lane. In 
1808, if the identification is correct, he came back 
to Chester as an avowed Unitarian to be pastor of 
Matthew Henry's Chapel. The parents mentioned in 
these entries were John and Margaret Charles, Richard 
and Mary Orme, Thomas and Jane Roden. 

The next baptism is that of the third daughter of 
James Parry, the minister being Thomas Brisco, in all 
probability the Supernumerary with whom Wesley 
lodged in 1789. 

The next entry is of great interest — 

Sarah Lowe, born December 30th, 1795, baptised May 
12th, 1796, second daughter of Thomas Lowe, Gunmaker, 
Parish of St. Oswald's, Chester, by Ann Taylor, daughter of 
John Taylor, Brassfounder, Parish of St. Mary's, Chester. 

The officiating minister was Thomas Coke, in all 
probability Dr. Coke, the noted Missionary pioneer, 
the date falling within the period of one of his visits 
to England. 

Thomas Lowe was born at Hollow Moor Heath, 
parish of Great Barrow. In 1781 he was bound 


apprentice in Chester, and in 1788 joined the Method- 
ists. His son William, born in 1799, died in 1872. He 
was also a gunsmith. It is evident that the father 
went over to the New Connexion at its formation, and 
a tablet in Pepper Street Chapel proclaims the son to 
have been a prominent member of the same till his 
death in 1872. 

The next infants mentioned were baptised by 
James McPherson, who was evidently one of the 
ministers called out by the Trinity I^ane people ; for in 
the following entry, recording the baptism of his own 
child, he is described as "minister," and the child is 
stated to have been buried in the Independent Method- 
ist Chapel in Trinity I^ane, April, 1797. Then follow 
records down to 1831, in which the officiating ministers 
appear all to have been regular ministers of the New 

* The first return made to the New Connexion Con- 
ference from Chester was in 1799, when 147 members 
were reported. A detailed list of 1801 is extant : — 
Chester 48, Bradley 9, Northwood 11, Oldcastle 19, 
Huxley 7, Hawarden 22, Frodsham 8, Tarvin and 
Oscroft 12, Undecipherable 11, Pickton 6. Total 153. 

In 1835 the New Connexion erected a large and 
handsome new Chapel in Pepper Street, near to the 
Wesleyan Chapel in St. John Street. The estate was 
often seriously embarrassed, as the Connexional papers 
shew, but the great efforts exerted to clear it were 
finally successful. 


CDe Octaaon Cbapel : £ast years, 

1798-9 : Thomas Hutton ; James Biddall ; George 

THE third preacher, then in the seventh year of 
his ministry and the twenty-seventh of his age, 
married one of the daughters of Mr. Richard Williams 
of Rackery. He was a man of force and worth, and 
rendered most valuable service to his Church. " His 
name stands in the first rank of those who have served 
the great cause of Missions, by their exertions at 
home. He adopted measures which led to the 

organization of the Methodist Auxiliary Missionary 
Society for the Leeds District, and thus introduced 
an entirely new era in the history of our Foreign 
Missions." 1 

Having laboured strenuously as Secretary of the 
Wesleyan Missionary Society, he was in 1830 elected 
to the Presidency of the Conference. In 1831 he was 
appointed to the Governorship of Woodhouse Grove 
School, in which office he remained until within a 
fortnight of his decease in 1S43. 

1. Mag., Oct., 1844. 


In 1800 an m appointment was made which had 
considerable effect upon the Chester Circuit. By the 
influence of Dr. Coke two well known and highly- 
suitable ministers were withheld from their designated 
Circuits in Cornwall and the Potteries respectively, 
and appointed to Ruthin, a Circuit which properly 
speaking did not exist. Their names were Owen 
Davies and John Hughes. The former was a native 
of Wrexham, where he was born in 1752, and had 
travelled in Chester. 

To some extent, indeed, the work had been already begun. 
An amiable young man, named Edward Jones, of Bathafarn, 
the vale of Clwyd, had been converted to God in Manchester, 
and having there joined the Methodist Society, was, some 
time afterward, induced by the age and infirmity of his 
parents, and his own delicate health, to return to his native 
place. To leave Manchester, where he enjoyed so many 
religious advantages, he felt to be a sore trial. Before his 
departure he called upon Mr. Bradburn, the Superintendent, 
to ask his advice. Mr. Bradburn received him with all 
kindness, and advised him, on his way home, to call on 
the preacher at Chester, and request him to come over 
occasionally to Ruthin to preach. In compliance with this 
advice, Mr. Jones called upon Mr. Hutton at Chester, who, in 
reply to the request, said, " I shall be glad to come if you can 
get me an open door." Mr. Jones assured him that this 
should be done, and, having returned home, he went to Ruthin 
and hired a room. Mr. Ridall, one of the Chester preachers, 
shortly afterwards paid him a visit, and preached to an 
attentive congregation on the 3rd January, 1800. From this 
time one of the Chester preachers came there once a fort- 
night; and in the absence of a preacher, Mr. Jones himself 
held prayer meetings which were encouragingly attended. 

It is said that Edward Jones in August, 1800, was 
so depressed by failing health and by isolation that he 


left home to climb Moel Fammau that he might lie 
down and die there. But a farm servant cried out after 
him that a letter had come. He returned to read, and 
his hopes revived as he read of the appointment of 
Owen Davies and John Hughes x 

It is difficult to say when the work actually began 
in North Wales ; for, in addition to the facts already 
mentioned, it has to be taken into account that there 
were enrolled in the Chester Circuit in 1793, 7 members 
at Denbigh, as well as members at Mold, Penymynydd, 
Caergwrle, and Wrexham. The members at Denbigh 
were : Evan and Judith Roberts, Henry and Elizabeth 
Carter, Elizabeth Wynn, Phoebe Wilkinson, Elizabeth 

The following Societies were handed over to the 
pioneers soon after their arrival : Wrexham, Rackery 
(Caergwrle), and Northop. In 1803 a further cession of 
territory was made, when Wrexham was taken from 
Ruthin and made the head of a Circuit. Whitchurch 
and the surrounding villages were then taken from 
Chester and allotted to Wrexham, the Chester staff of 
preachers being reduced from three to two. 

Owen Davies remained at Ruthin for four years, 
and was then appointed to the newly formed Circuit of 
Denbigh, with authority over North Wales work in 
general. It was on the first of January, 1802, that the 
two Missionaries opened the first Wesleyan Chapel in 
Denbigh, and in May, 1804, that the first Welsh District 
Meeting was held in the same town. This extension of 

1. The particulars in this section are derived from the following sources : — 
Life of the Rev. Owen Davies, Mag., 1832. 
An article by Rev. Isaac Jenkins (City Road Mag., 1871, p. 513) 
The Methodist Recorder, Xmas number, 1892, p. 76. 


i 7 8 

Methodism in North Wales, though it curtailed the 
territory of the Criester Circuit, proved the commence- 
ment of a great work for God in the wide area reaching 
from Chester to Holyhead. In seven years no fewer 
than twenty-five young Welshmen were called out into 
the itinerant work. One whom God greatly blessed 
was John Bryan. He had been an assistant to the 
Misses Williams in their business, and had received 
much spiritual help from George Morley. He was 
converted in Chester in 1798. He entered the ministry 
in 1 801, and was spared for long service. He preached 
in St. John Street Chapel in the year 1855. 

It was not long before a Chapel was opened in 
Wrexham. The opening sermon was published, the 
title page reading as follows : — 

God shining forth from between the Cherubim. A 
Sermon preached at the Opening of the Methodist- Chapel, 
Bridge Street, Bolton. On Sunday, September 30th, 1804 ; 
and at the Opening of the Methodist- Chapel in Wrexham, 
on Tuesday, January 1st, 1805, by Samuel Bradburn. 
(T Ga?ner, Minerva Printing Works, Bolton, 180J.J 

At this same period the work of God was extended 
upon the other side of the Circuit. In 1798 Mr. Joseph 
Janion, afterwards the historian of Chester Methodism, 
came to reside at Mouldsworth. He was then in his 
prime, for he was born on October 16th, 1750, at 
Parkside Farm, within a quarter of a mile of Aston 
Hall near Frodsham. The family, always reverent and 
well-ordered, learned vital religion from Mr. John 
Gardner, the well-known preacher who afterwards 
became Mr. Janion's brother-in-law. In 1773 Mr. Joseph 
Janion joined the Society at little I*eigh, then in the 


Liverpool Circuit. Rev. John Hampson, senior, was 
the leader of the class and amongst the members were 
Daniel Barker and Ralph Kinsey. His actual conver- 
sion took place in 1774, at a prayer meeting held by 
William Shone of Northwich. In 1774 Mr, Janion 
began to lead a class at Preston Brook, and in 1775 
gathered a dozen members at Overton, and two years 
afterwards formed a class at Norley, w T here a chapel 
was erected in 1779. In 1780, Mr. Janion married and 
settled upon a farm at Weston near Runcorn, where he 
was visited by Thomas Hanby, travelling preacher from 
Iviverpool. In 1787 a Chapel was commenced at Kings- 
ley ; when the friends there were involved in difficulties 
Mr. Janion and Mr. Pugh, of New Pale, came to the 
rescue and finished it at their joint expense. In 1790 
he removed to Bradley Orchard, whither the Methodist 
preachers again followed him. When there he gave 
land and assisted in the erection of a Chapel in Frod- 
sham, whereby Methodism, which had been more or 
less in evidence since 1774, became established in the 
place. In this good work he was joined by his highly 
esteemed friend Mr. Hayes, of the Salt Works. 

It is not surprising that ( with such a record behind 
him, Joseph Janion should open his house for preach- 
ing at Mouldsworth upon removing thither. The good 
accomplished by Mr. Janion's labours in connection 
with country Methodism is illustrated in a contemporary 
pamphlet. An account of the Life, Christian Expcrioicc 
and Happy Death of Miss Harbridoe, of Mouldsworth, in 
the County of Chester, who died March 21st, iSof, aged 
17 years. Writ ten chiejly by herself, and compiled and 
arranged by Thcophilus Lessey. Chester : Printed by f. 
Hemingway, 1S04. The preachers specially meutioued 

i So 

by Miss Harbridge as being helpful to her were 
John Goodwin and Alexander Suter. Amongst fellow- 
members she mentioned Sister Buxton and Ralph 
Rawlinson. She was brought to God at the early age 
of fourteen, but her piety, which was deep and fervent, 
had only three years in which to manifest itself; for 
God soon called her home. Her funeral sermon was 
preached at Mr. Janion's by Mr. L,essey. He had fre- 
quently visited her and this arrangement was her own 
choice. Mouldsworth was then in the Northwich 
Circuit, of which Mr. I^essey was superintendent. This 
was Theophilus I^essey, Senior. His son, afterwards 
so famous in Methodism, laboured in the same Circuit a 
few years later. It was not till 1818 that Mouldsworth, 
with 32 members and a Chapel three years old, passed 
into the Tarporley section of the Chester Circuit. The 
old arrangement, geographically unnatural, was no 
tloubt owing to the fact that the little Society was kept 
up by Mr. Janion, who had no wish to sever his 
connection with the Circuit of his youth. 

Bound up with the pamphlet mentioned are two 
leaflets : — 

Elegy on the Death of Miss Mary Harbridge, written 

by Miss E. Brow7i. 
Poems on Moral and Divine Subjects, written by the 
late Miss Mary Harbridge, and found amongst 
her papers after her decease. Corrected and 
arra?iged by Miss E. Brown, of Tarvin. 

From the latter are taken the following lines : — 

See ! the dark clouds begin to fly, 
And hover o'er the western sky, 
And night in sable robes array'd 
Doth the fair realms of day invade : 


The Sun hath shut its glories in, 

And gloom pervades each pleasing scene ; 

Thick darkness creeps along the ground, 

And awful stillness reigns around : 

Bright Sun of righteousness, O may 

No horrors shade our mental day ; 

No darkness intercept thy light, 

Or plunge us in eternal night. 

Conduct by thine all-cheering rays 

Our souls to glory's cloudless blaze, 

Where no thick glooms infest the skies ; 

But day, uninterrupted day, 

Shall chace the shades of night away. 

Miss E. Brown is in all probability to be 
identified with the Elizabeth Brown who married 
Joseph Robinson (Wesleyan Minister), at Tarvin, May 
28th, 1814. Her husband says of her parents that 
" they were known to many of the preachers who have 
travelled in the Chester Circuit, in whose house they 
have published the Gospel of Jesus for several years." 

Another convert of the Mouldsworth services, 
under a sermon preached by John Reece, brother of 
Rev. R. Reece, was Elizabeth Done who was born at 
Marton I,odge, near Over, in 1798. She was then 
visiting the Janion family, to which she soon became 
closely attached as the wife of Charles Janion, the 
historian's son. The latter was born at Bradley 
Orchard, July 5th, 1796. The first nine years of his 
ministry were spent in the West Indies. He died in 
1871 after a long period of supernumeraryship, several 
years of which were usefully spent in Chester. 

In the later years of his life Mr. Joseph Janion 
also resided in Chester. He found great delight in 
telling the new generation about the many privileges 


he had enjoyed .of hearing Wesley, and in recounting 
his experiences at some of the great centres of early 
Methodism. It is said that he was in the company 
of Wesley and others when the building of Oldham 
Street Chapel, Manchester, was determined. He lived 
to a patriarchal age, dying in 1838 in his 88th year. It 
was in 1833 that he published a little book so often 
referred to in these pages. 1 It is interesting and 
valuable, but one cannot help feeling that if Mr. 
Janion had only taken up the work ten years earlier 
he might have left us a book of the greatest importance. 

1800 : Samuel Botts ; James Gill ; James Penman. 

Under the ministry of Mr. Gill a gracious revival 
took place. One of the converts was Roger L,. Phillips, 
in whom the work of grace was apparent throughout 
a period of seventy years. He passed away in Chester 
i^ 1864. 

1801 : Alexander Suter ; John Kershaw ; James Gill. 

Removal expenses were more than the Circuit 
could bear. In the Minutes of 1802 a grant appears 
for the removal of Mr. Kershaw from Edinburgh to 
Chester £8 8s. od. ; and Mr. Gill from Chester to 
Lynn, £5 14s. od. 

1802 : Alexander Suter ; Joseph Cooke ; George Lowe. 

Suter had literary ambitions, and during his 
residence in Chester the following was published, 

1. Its full title is : — 

Some account of the Introduction of Methodism into the City, and some 
parts of the County of Chester; together with brief biographical 
sketches of several eminent characters connected therewith. By 
J. Janion, Senior, of Chester. Chester : Printed by Evans & Son, 
Foregate Street. 

i8 3 

with a preface dated Alpraham, November 22nd, 
1802 : — 

Death, Judgment, and Eternity ! A Poem, in three 
parts. By Alex. Suter. 

A verse may find him who a sermon flies, 
And turn delight into a sacrifice. Herbert. 

Chester : Printed by Broster and Son, 1803. 
(Price Sixpence.) 

This poem of some thirty pages deals with the 
weighty matters enumerated on the title page in vivid 
and realistic fashion. Amongst the saints John Wesley 
has a place, and is honoured as the author's spiritual 

The day be bless'd my wand'ring feet were led, 

Within the house of prayer, thy house to tread. 

'Twas in thine absence, when a worthy son, 

By Heav'n instructed, and by thee led on, 

Who truth proclaimed, and offered mercy free, 

That won my youthful heart to God and thee ; 

Informed my soul the fatal snare to shun, 

And taught my feet the race of life to run. 

By thee encouraged what to be and do, 

And how my own and others' good pursue ; 

A social charge to me at first assigned, 

Engaged my docile, free, but timid mind, 

Then at thy pleasure I was called abroad, 

The will to publish of our dying God. 

My sphere enlarged more good to do and get, 

Amongst thy favour'd sons my humble name was set. 

Mr Strachan, in the book already referred to, says : 
To Mr. Lowe this was a year of much discouragement. 
The circuit enjoyed peace, the congregations were good, the 
lay-officers were united and zealous, yet there seemed to be no 
increase of religion and few converts from the world. Every- 
thing moved on heavily. There did not seem to be remissness 

1 84 

anywhere : aijd yet there was obviously a great want of power 
and vitality. Before the end of the year it was discovered that 
Mr. Joseph Cooke, one of Mr. Lowe's colleagues, had been 
cautiously, but effectually, counteracting the work of God, 
and subverting the faith of the people. He had embraced 
peculiar views of Justification by Faith, and the Witness of the 
Spirit: and under the pretext of defending these cardinal 
doctrines, as expounded by Mr. Wesley and incorporated in 
his writings, he virtually denied them. The late 

Rev. Edward Hare published a volume in the epistolary form, 
in which the theological errors of Mr. Cooke were fully ex- 
posed and ably refuted. Mr. Hare showed that 
Mr. Wesley and Mr. Cooke were at issue on all the points 
embraced in their respective definitions. Mr. Hare 
then proves, that Mr. Cooke's sentiments, on this doctrine, 
were as much opposed to Scripture as they were to the 
writings of Mr. Wesley. While Mr. Cooke was 
associated with Mr. Lowe, in the Chester Circuit, he acted 
with considerable reserve; but, subsequently, he publicly 
avowed and defended his principles, which led to his expulsion 
from the Wesleyan Connexion. * 

1803-5: Francis West; James Townley. 

In a letter written from Chester on the 6th July, 
1805, to a young preacher named Daniel Isaac, Dr, 
Townley refers to an illness from which he was then 
recovering, and incidentally makes some significant 
remarks about the state of the work in Chester. 

Disputes still run high in Chester. Many are determined 
not to be the dupes of two or three rich men who would not 
scruple to sacrifice the cause of God to retain their power. 
May the Lord direct us ! 

1. Materials exist sufficient to give a fairly full account of the points at 
issue ; but such discussions are little to the taste of modern Methodists, and 
lie beyond the scope of this book. For Cooke's later cCurse see Jessop's 
Methodism in Rossendale, p. 186. 

i8 5 

Dr. Townley rose to considerable eminence in 
Methodism and enriched the literature of his Church. 

That Francis West was a ready writer appears from 
his numerous contributions to the Methodist Magazine 
of his time. The records of Methodists dying in the 
Lord within the bounds of the Circuit were never so 
faithfully transmitted to the editor as during his super- 
intendency. Some of these may also be read in 
Mr. West's own handwriting in the old Circuit register. 
During his residence in Chester he brought to fruition 
a more ambitious literary enterprise. A?i historical and 
Practical Discourse on the Sabbath Day, wherein the 
Origin and End of its Institution are considered ; with 
directions to keep it holy. By Francis West, Preacher of 
the Gospel. Chester : Printed for the Author by f. Heming- 
way ; and sold by W Baines, no. 54., Paternoster Row, 
Londo?i ; and by E. Bayley, Macclesfield. Price Two 
Shillings and Threepence, in Board, 1805. 

The preface is dated Chester, April 9th, 1805. The 
book contains 204 pages and consists of extracts, 
classified, from 200 authors, ancient and modern. It is 
now very rare. The copy quoted is in the Birkenhead 
Public Library. 

1805—6: Robert Miller; Thomas Preston. 

One of the most remarkable revivals of religion 
ever experienced in the neighbourhood rewarded the 
work of these men. Public attention was aroused, 
and numbers nocked to the Octagon Chapel to hear the 
word of God. The fire extended to other parts of 
the Circuit, and it was afterwards computed that during 
the progress of this revival nearly three hundred 
persons were added to the various Societies within its 

1 86 

borders. The Mijiutes of subsequent years shew that 
the work of God had been permanently extended by 
these showers of blessing. 

The following pamphlet was doubtless written to 
meet the case of those who were impressed by the 
revival, but were ignorant of the Methodist system of 
doctrine. A Small Sketch of several Scriptural Doctrines, 
which are taught amongst the Methodists ; addressed to 
Pe?iitent Sinners of every Denomination. Jo which is 
added, A Letter to a Deist. By Robert Miller, Chester : 
Pri?ited by J. Hemingway, 1807. 

With this spiritual progress was associated material 
prosperity, and the increased zeal of the Society made 
practicable a building scheme which had long been 
desirable. In 1806 a school was erected on the west 
side of the passage leading from Foregate Street to the 
Chapel, on land belonging to the Trustees. A new 
hotise was built for the second preacher, and the house 
of the Superintendent was enlarged. A new deed was 
executed on the nineteenth of July, 1806, appointing 
the following Trustees : — 

(a) From the old Trust : George I,owe, senior ; 
Richard Bruce ; John Gardner ; James 
(F) New Trustees resident in Chester : George 
IyOwe, junior, Goldsmith ; Edward Jones, 
Brazier ; Thomas Jones, Pawnbroker ; Samuel 
Beckett, Waggoner ; Robert Parry, Currier ; 
Samuel Williams, I^inen Draper. 
(<:) New Trustees from the country : Samuel 
Hitchen, Farmer, Alpraham ; Joseph Janion, 
Gentleman, Mouldsworth : John Reece, 


Farmer, Brereton Park, Tarporley ; Thomas 
Shone, Gentleman, Kinnerton ; Daniel I,ea, 
Gentleman, Kinnerton ; George Pugh, Far- 
mer, New Pale, Delamere Forest; Samuel 
Wilkinson ; John I^ea ; Matthew Tutin, 
Cheese Factor, Tarporley. 
Each of these nineteen Trustees, was, when the 
deed was executed, a member of Society. 

The new deed did not contain the provision 
embodied in the old one against the holding of service 
during Church hours. There was nothing therefore to 
prevent the gratification of the wish of the majority of the 
members ; the hours of service were accordingly changed 
from 8 to 10-30 in the morning, the evening service 
remained at 6 as before, and an additional service was 
arranged for at 2 in the afternoon. The privilege of 
receiving the Sacrament at the hands of their own 
preachers in their own place of worship was also 
accorded to the members ; and they had now no longer 
to repair to the Parish Church, the Independent Chapel, 
or the New Connexion Chapel, for that means of grace. 

1807 : Matthew Lumb ; Anthony Seckerson ; John 
Reynolds, Junr. 

1808-9 : John Ogilvie; Samuel Warren. 

1810-11 : John Braithwaite ; Isaac Muff. 

It was probably in 1808 that Dr. Adam Clarke, the 
great Bible scholar, wrote as follows at Chester, on his 
return from the Irish Conference : — 

from Bangor Ferry to St. Asaph, and thence 
to Holywell and this city, where we arrived after one. Never 
have I felt myself so exhausted. In the last two stages I was 

1 88 

nearly knocked up. My whole vital energy seems nearly gone; 
and I would sacrifice not a little to be in London, as I have 
seriously feared whether I shall not be laid up. I suppose it 
is the effect of fatigue and anxiety and that a day or two of 
rest will restore me. But where should I get rest ? Here am 
I among perfect strangers ; and the cry is Preach, Preach. I 
have promised to preach to-morrow morning. 

Perhaps it was on this occasion that young Thomas 
Hulse of Winsford, hearing that Dr. Clarke was adver- 
tised to preach in Chester on a certain Sunday, was 
seen trudging in the small hours of the Sunday morning 
across Delamere Forest, with his old umbrella under 
his arm, though he had been hard at work till late on 
the Saturday night. His journey of seventeen miles to 
Chester seemed a trifle. He heard the Doctor, walked 
home at night, and at midnight went straight to work 
again rejoicing, without an hour of rest. 

Dr. Clarke does not seem to have visited Chester 
often, but he was through the city in 1832 shortly 
before his death. 

In 1808 Neston was made a separate station, the 
following entries appearing in the Minutes : — 

1808 : Neston, Thomas Biggins ; James Holroyd, 

The former retired the next year for want of 
health, and soon died. 

1809 : Neston, James Hyde ; Kdward Hollis. 

1810 : Neston, a Missionary to be sent. The 
Neston Missionary to act under the Chester Super- 
intendent, and to change occasionally with the Chester 
Preachers. 107 members were reported for the previous 
year. These, no doubt, belonged in part to the villages 
adjacent to Neston. 





-« £ 

<C < 











1811 : Neston Mission, Porteus Haswell. (The 
directions repeated.) Mr. Haswell did not fulfil this 
appointment, for though it was given him on the 
recommendation of the preachers of the Newcastle 
District, he had not finally made up his mind to be a 
Methodist preacher. His date in Methodist records will 
be seen to be 18 12. He had a very long and useful 
career in the work. It should be mentioned that 
Mr. Haswell's christian name was Partis, to which 
John was often prefixed though it did not belong to 

181 2 : Neston Mission, Thomas Morton. (The 
directions repeated). (97 members). 

1813 : Neston Mission, Francis C. Reed, who is to 
be under the direction of the Chester Superintendent. 
(92 members.) 1 

1. The following facts may conveniently be added here : — In 1814 the Neston 
Mission ceased to appear as such in the Minutes ; but an additional preacher, 
Joseph Roberts, was sent to the Chester Circuit. His name has been already 
mentioned as marrying one of the Williams family. The next year this third 
preacher is dropped. On the earliest plan of the Circuit which has been available 
for this history (1817), Neston was supplied on alternate Sundays from Chester and 
Liverpool. From the plan of the Liverpool North Circuit for 1848 it appears that 
the same arrangement was still in operation then. On the formation of the Birken- 
head Circuit in 1851 Neston was included therein. Unhappily, however, the work 
did not prosper ; in 1858 the old Chapel passed into Presbyterian hands, and for 
many years Wesleyan Methodism was not represented in the neighbourhood. In 
1899 the Rock Ferry Circuit acquired an iron Church in a commanding position 
and there is now good prospect of a strong cause being established there. The old 
Chapel, now sadly out of repair, is no longer devoted to religious purposes. It 
will save the reader from possible confusion to note that it is situated between 
Neston and Parkgate, and is identical with " the small house just built" mentioned 
on page 53. 

i go 

Some family Eistories, ana Rotable Conversions. 

During these last years at the Octagon Chapel 
Methodism in the City of Chester received several 
valuable accessions from the Methodist Church which 
had been founded in the house of Richard and 
Klizabeth Williams at Rackery. A brief account of 
this worthy couple, their children and descendants, is 
all that can be attempted here ; but in this will appear 
some of the most notable names in the annals of our 
Church. The first member of the family coming with- 
in the purview of this work is Mr. John Williams. 
Bereft of both parents at an early age, he was, when old 
enough, put to service ; the place found for him being, 
happily, in a home where God was worshipped and 
feared. Subsequently he resided with a Presbyterian 
family at Newmarket (Flints.), and eventually returned 
to Cheshire, where he first heard the Methodists. 
After his doubts and fears concerning them were over- 
come he became a steady adherent, and was one of the 
first in the County to give in his name as a member of 
the Methodist Society. He was so eager to hear 
the word, that he would frequently travel fifteen or 
twenty miles after a hard day's labour to hear a 

Richard Williams, born about 1737, was a son of 
the foregoing John Williams, and was another of the 
early triumphs of grace in Tattenhall. His conversion 
was on this wise : — being one day in the smith's shop 
when but a lad, a neighbour jeeringly asked him 
whether his father still " went to pray dark prayers 
with Dr Smith," referring to the Mr. Samuel Smith of 


whose labours mention has been made on an earlier 
page. Mr. Bruce, the neighbour in question, affected 
to despise him for his want of a classical education. 
Young Williams had no idea what was meant by " dark 
prayers," but the words excited his curiosity and were 
remembered. One day he was passing a cockpit sur- 
rounded by a great concourse of people on their knees 
vehemently cursing and swearing. This, he thought, 
must be what Mr. Bruce meant by "praying dark 
prayers" ; on his return he told his father all about it, 
and received a deeply impressive lesson on spiritual 
prayer. After this incident, though under religious 
concern, he was prevailed upon to accompany some 
acquaintances to Chester Races. The ungodliness and 
vice he saw there made him wretched and he escaped 
as soon as he could. Not long after this he became 
a member, being brought in with many others in a 
remarkable revival. It is interesting to note that Mr. 
Bruce was afterwards converted through the preaching 
of the very man he had so despised. 

When about twenty-five years of age Richard 
Williams removed to Rackery, near Gresford, on the 
borders of Wales, between Chester and Wrexham. 
Within three years of settling there he married 
Elizabeth, younger daughter of Mr. Richard Gardner, 
of Yew Tree House, Tattenhall Wood, thus becoming 
the brother-in-law of the valiant local preacher, John 
Gardner, whose labours have already been described. 
The marriage took place at Clapham, where Miss 
Gardner was then residing, the officiating Clergyman 
being the Rev. William Romaine. At Rackery Mr. 
Williams soon established preaching on his own 


premises, and was a class leader in his own house for 
over half a century. He never preached in the strict 
sense of the term, but he sometimes exhorted. The 
home was hospitable in the extreme, and Mr. Williams 
supported the Wesleyan preachers for one day in every 
fortnight, though his resources were at one time taxed 
by the support of his uncle and mother. 

Mrs. Williams, who was born February 23rd, 1746, 
had been the last of her family to join the Methodists. 
Her choice gifts of song had won for her much social 
recognition, especially from the clergyman and his 
family ; and whenever there was a party at the parson- 
age Miss Elizabeth Gardner was sure to be of the 
number and was generally honoured to dance with the 
clergyman. But the pious influences of the home 
prevailed at length with her also, and she was but 
seventeen when she renounced the friendship of the 
world. At the age of twenty-one she entered upon the 
duties of married life and proved a most valuable help- 
meet to her husband for many years. Her life was full 
of devoted labour for the material and spiritual pros- 
perity of her husband and the large family she bore 
him, distance from school causing the chief care 
of the children to devolve upon their mother. Mr. 
Williams died in 1816 in his 79th year. Mrs. Williams 
was also spared to a good old age and passed away at 
Radcliffe in 1824. An obituary notice in the Magazine, 
signed G. M., said: — "Few persons have been more 
uniform in their walk with God; and her end was in 
perfect correspondence with her life. Having lived to 
see her children and her children's children planted in 
the house of the L,ord she died in perfect peace." 

i 9 3 

Mr. and Mrs. Williams were happy in their 
children and were amply repaid for any labour they 
bestowed upon them. Of the ten children born to 
them one died in infancy ; but the others were all 
spared and all rose to positions of honour and useful- 
ness in the Christian Church. 

Margaret was selected by her parents to commence a 
drapery business in Shoemakers' Row, Northgate Street, 
Chester. There she followed the example of the home 
at Rackery, and appropriated one room in the house 
for the purpose of public prayer and weekly meetings 
for the spiritual good of her neighbours : an act the 
moral courage of which under all circumstances cannot 
be too highly praised. It is gratifying to know that the 
enterprise, in which afterwards others of the sisters were 
also engaged, was attended with remarkable success, 
and the establishment of the Misses Williams was for 
many years well known and respected in the city In 
1796 Miss Margaret Williams married Mr. John Copner 
Williams, a lawyer, of Denbigh, To them was born 
one son, and one daughter, who married the Rev. 
Thomas Wynne Edwards, a clergyman of Rhuddlan. 
Dr. Warren, in the book referred to below, gives a full 
account of the happy death of Mrs. J C. Williams, 
which took place in 1799. 

Anne was born at Rackery in 1778, and early learned to 
love the way of godliness, finding in the frequent visits 
of the preachers a means of intellectual and religious 
improvement. The hospitable home of Mr. Williams, 
situated in the midst of a group of villages, undertook 
more than its fair share of the burdens of hospitality, 



and received in consequence more of the light which 
these devoted men diffused wherever they went. As 
the business in Northgate Street developed Anne was 
sent to help her sisters. Under their influence the 
work of grace went on and she soon received the spirit 
of adoption. It was in Chester that she became 
acquainted with the remarkable man who afterwards be- 
came her husband. The later doings of Mr. Warren are 
well known to all students of Methodist controversies, 
and need not be described here. He was at this time 
entering upon his ministerial career, and in marrying 
him Anne Williams renounced the comforts of a settled 
home and bright commercial prospects. Her course as 
a preacher's wife was marked by much faithfulness and 
devotion. In 1812 at Macclesfield she was visited with 
a severe bodily affliction which brought her to the very 
gates of death. Her recovery constituted "as remark- 
able an answer to prayer as perhaps can be equalled in 
modern days." After residence in Glasgow, Chester, 
and Sunderland, Dr. and Mrs. Warren removed to 
Iyondon, where the latter died in great peace on 
December 2nd, 1823. A funeral sermon was preached 
at Chelsea by her brother-in-law, the Rev. George 
Morley. 1 

Mary married Mr. Richard Bealey, a bleacher, of Rad- 
cliffe, near Manchester. When a widow she built at 
her own cost what was considered to be at the time the 
prettiest Chapel in Methodism. She was the first 

1. Dr. Warren paid his wife's memory a noble and eloquent tribute in a 
little volume from which many particulars about the family have been gathered ; 
Memoirs and Select Letters of Mrs. Anne Warren. (Second Edition, 1832,) The 
celebrated author of The Diary of a late Physician, and Ten Thousand a Year, 
was a son of Dr. Warren. 


person to give as much as a thousand pounds in one 
sum to the Foreign Missionary Society. Dr. Osborn 
says : — " I have seldom, if ever, known a Christian rich 
in this world more observant of St. Paul's rule, ' Ready 
to distribute ; Willing to communicate,' or one whose 
conduct in this respect has been so influential." Mrs. 
T. Percival Bunting of Manchester was Mrs. Bealey's 
only daughter. The Bealeys were related to the cele- 
brated Marsden family, which gave a President to the 
Methodist Connexion and several useful Clergymen to 
the Establishment. Richard Reece and Dr. Townley 
found their wives in that family. 

Elizabeth married the Rev. George Morley of whom 
mention has been made already in connection with his 
appointment to the Chester Circuit. Her husband's 
last appointment was to the pastoral and domestic 
oversight of the school at Woodhouse Grove, a position 
in which Mrs. Morley's gifts found full scope. It 
is said that when she went there she found great 
waste of milk, so she went to Rackery to find out how 
to convert it into cheese, and in this way saved much for 
the school. The late Dr. Gregory, whose facility in 
characterization the Methodist people know so well, 
was intimately acquainted with Mrs. Morley and 
said : — " She was truly a fine character, well worthy 
of her three famous Methodist sisters, the saintly 
Mrs. Dr. Warren, the majestic and munificent Mrs. 
Bealey of Radcliffe Close, and Mrs. Joseph Roberts, the 
happy, loving, ever-working, ever-rejoicing, Methodist 
minister's wife." (From a letter published in the 
biography of Mr H. B. Harrison of Manchester.) 
George Morley and Elizabeth Williams were married at 


the Parish Church of Wrexham. Their choice of a 
wedding trip was highly characteristic of them both. 
They chartered a post chaise to Madeley to see Mrs. 
Fletcher, and had helpful spiritual converse with her. 
Mrs. Morley's daughter Eliza was born in one of the 
top rooms of the shop in Northgate Street, and was 
employed by her Aunts until she married Matthew 
Harrison, who was in the same employment and 
eventually succeeded to the business. Of the husband 
and son of Mrs. Harrison more is said on another page. 
She died in Chester in 1861. Her daughter Eliza 
married a good Methodist over the border, Mr. John 

^Gittins, who was born at Cefn, near Wrexham, in 1822. 
He did much to help local Methodism and was steward 
of the Wrexham Circuit when he passed away in 1887. 
Mrs. Gittins survived till September, 1902, when she 
passed away at the age of 77 leaving behind her in the 

"Wrexham Circuit a consistent reputation for kindness 
and hospitality extending over half a century. Three 
of her daughters were married to Wesleyan Ministers, 
and another is the wife of a distinguished agent of 
the London Missionary Society. Mrs, Gittins' eldest 
daughter married the Rev. Dr. Wenyon, and her death, 
which took place about twelve months before her 
mother's, was a great blow to her. 

Martha was married on August nth, 1818, to the Rev. 
Joseph Roberts, whose first appointment was to Neston 
in 1 8 14. Mrs. Roberts died in 1859 at Bradford-on- 
Avon, aged 71. Her husband, who must be carefully 
distinguished from the notable Indian Missionary and 
Oriental scholar of the same name (1818-1849), survived 
till 1874. A daughter of theirs, Mrs. Edmund Hill r 
is now passing a quiet eventide at Ealing. 


Phyllis married Mr. John Dowries, and died at her own 
residence, Islington Square, Manchester, aged 57. A 
tablet to her memory may be seen in St. John Street 

Samuel was an influential Methodist in Chester, where 
he was in business as a draper, apparently with his 
sisters. His son John was a draper in Frodsham, and 
there Mrs. Samuel Williams resided in her widowhood. 
Two of the sons of Mr. John Williams, of Frodsham, 
are clergymen of the Established Church, and have 
acquired the old home at Rackery 

John was a draper in Wrexham, and was largely instru- 
mental in founding or consolidating Methodism in 
Wrexham and district, especially in Oswestry. His 
daughter Mary became the first wife of Mr. T. C. Jones 
of Wrexham, and was the mother of the late wife of the 
Rev. Richard Harding, whose sou, the Rev. R. Wiuboult 
Harding, is also a Wesleyan minister. 

Richard was a farmer, first at Rackery, and then at 
Greenwalls, near Dodleston. He had several children : 
Dutton, his son, was on the St. John Street trust; 
Richard, another son, had the shop which is now in the 
name of Hodges in Kastgate Row. Of the daughters, 
Phyllis became the second wife of Mr. T. C. Jones, and 
diediu 1899 leaving three daughters ; another, Elizabeth, 
married Rev. William Wilson (b), often known as 
Captain Wilson. She left two daughters : Mrs. William 
Walker of Whitehaven ; and Mrs. Peter Thompson of 

Yet another daughter of Mr. Richard Williams of 
Greenwalls married a Mr. Moss. His son Samuel, who 


died at Rowton in 1900, married a daughter of Mr. 
Ambrose Williams, draper of Kastgate Street, whose 
shop was subsequently taken over by Oakes & Griffiths. 
This marriage brought together two families of the 
name of Williams which were otherwise quite distinct 
except for some distant connexion through the Gardners. 
The private b house of Mr. Ambrose Williams was situated 
in Boughton and was known as Vine House. There is 
a persistent tradition in the family that Wesley 
used to stay at the next house. Mr. T. H. Williams, 
the brother of Mrs. Samuel Moss, with some com- 
panions, used to conduct cottage services in the villages 
around Chester. He afterwards settled in Sligo and did 
much for his adopted town, of which he was at one time 
Mayor. He was faithful to Methodism and refused a 
bribe of ^3000 to vote on the wrong side, as he con- 
sidered it, at a Parliamentary election. One of the 
* companions of his early evangelistic tours was the son 
of a Cheshire farmer, and was then serving his time 
with Mr. Dean, woollen draper, Eastgate Row. He 
afterwards went to College, entered the Church, went 
abroad, married the daughter of a Dean, and eventually 
became a Colonial Bishop. (O) 

The following letters will be read with interest. 

Mrs. Warren, writing from Chester on February 2nd, 

1809, to her sister, Mrs. Bealey, said : — 

Many awful visitations of Providence have occurred in 
this city lately; especially, two fires; one of them, of which 
you have perhaps heard, was in the sugar-house, in Cuppins 
Lane : the other in Hop-pole yard, which is one of the most 
disastrous that has happened for many years. Many trades- 
men in the city are sufFerers. Providentially my sisters have 
sustained no loss by it, Only two days ago Gresford Mills 


also were burned down ; the particulars of which have not yet 
transpired. Whilst the judgments of the Lord are abroad in 
the earth, you will rejoice to know that the work of God is 
prospering here. I, at present, occupy your place in Mr. 
Howie's class, which is now so crowded that the place in 
which it meets is too small to contain us. Mr. H. is more 
alive to God than ever. 

Writing to the same sister from Macclesfield, 
December 2nd, 18 10, she said : — 

I received a letter from my sister Martha, in which she 
gives an account of the conversion of our dear Eliza. She is 
now rejoicing in a sense of the pardoning love of God ! The 
particulars which led to so bles:>ed a result will, no doubt, be 
communicated to you soon. She was enabled to believe on 
the Lord Jesus Christ, to the justification of her soul, at a 
meeting for prayer in our house at Chester ; after having 
attended the ministry of the Rev. Owen Davies, at the Octagon 
Chapel. How God still honours that house in the conversion 
of sinners ! 

Prominent in all this evangelistic activity was 
George Walker the earlier, who had joined the Method- 
ist Society in Chester in 1763. He must be carefully 
distinguished from the gentleman of the same name 
who was the first Steward of St. John Street Chapel, 
whose manuscript account of the beginnings of Chester 
Methodism is often referred to in these pages. The 
two were contemporary for some time, but the first was 
much older than the second, and died two years before 
the erection of the present Chapel. George Walker the 
earlier was a native of Chester, the son of well-to-do 
parents. He served his time with Mr. Richardson, 
then the principal Goldsmith in the City. During a 
subsequent period of residence in the Metropolis he 
was brought to conviction under the stirring ministry 


of the Rev. Wjlliam Romaine, M.A. His return 
journey to Chester was broken at Birmingham by a 
visit to his brother John who was a member of the 
Methodist Society. Acting under the advice he 
received in Birmingham, George lost no time in 
connecting himself with the Methodist Society on his 
return to Chester. It was not, however, until he had 
enjoyed Methodist fellowship for some time that the 
young man entered into conscious peace with God. 
The circumstances attending his deliverance from 
doubt and fear have been left on record. A deep 
impression was made upon him by John Hampson's 
sermon at the opening of the Octagon Chapel. A little 
later during a service of praise and prayer held at the 
house occupied by a daughter of Mr. Owen Williams 
the words were sung : — 

" Yes, Lord, I shall see the bliss of Thine own, 
*• Thy secret to me shall soon be made known ; 

For sorrow and sadness, I joy shall receive, 
And share in the gladness of all that believe." 

At that moment the heart of George Walker was 
filled with joy and peace, and he received the Spirit of 
Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. He cried 
aloud : — He is come, He is come, My Beloved is mine, 
and I am His. 

The subsequent career of George Walker was 
highly honourable. In due time he entered into 
business as a Goldsmith and eventually succeeded his 
old master Mr. Richardson. He became a Local 
Preacher and did much good in the neighbourhood. 
In later years, when his business was well established, 
he went further afield and preached in many parts of 


Wales, in Manchester, Liverpool, Burslem, and other 
places. In the prosecution of the work he underwent 
Erich toil and often encountered the rage of evil men. 
Mr. Walker obtained a very honourable position in the 
public life of the City ; he would not however allow 
himself to be nominated as Mayor. In 1767 he married 
Miss Sarah Bagg. His children and friends could not 
persuade him to sit for his portrait until they were able 
to plead the claims of charity in the case of a gifted, 
but needy, artist. The painting of the picture was 
attended by a very remarkable incident. The veteran 
Local Preacher spoke to the painter during the first 
sitting about the value of true religion. So far from 
being offended the artist introduced the subject himself 
at the second sitting and listened attentively to what 
Mr. Walker had to say. Suddenly a change passed over 
the artist's face. Mr. Walker exclaimed, " Are you 
well, Sir " ? He had scarcely uttered the words when 
the pencil flew from the painter's hand, the palette fell 
to the ground, and the man sank helpless on the floor. 
Medical assistance was obtained, but the artist passed 
away in a few hours. Mr. Walker was deeply impressed 
by this event and was thankful that he had made such 
good use of the opportunity of pointing this man to 
the Saviour. The picture, unfinished, and disfigured 
by a mark from the pencil as it flew from the artist's 
hand, remained in Mr. Walker's possession. 

Mr. Walker passed away March 8th, 1809. His 
testimony in his last illness was : — 

I consider it a very great mercy that I am free from all 
pain. As to everything else, I am well persuaded, that his 
covenant with me is well ordered and sure. I can say nothing 
of my life, but that my best performances needed washing in the 


Blood of the Redeemer : but I hope, and am sure, God will 

accept of my feeble endeavours to glorify His name. I can 

say with the Royal Psalmist, " Come and hear, all ye that fear 

God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul." My 

whole dependence is upon the Atonement Christ has made 

for me. There I rest. 

Sincere affection existed between Mr. Walker and 

the Rev. John Gaulter, who entered the ministry from 

Chester, and in 1817 rose to the chair of the Conference. 

Mr. Gaulter preached his friend's funeral sermon at the 

Octagon Chapel, which was crowded for the occasion 

by one of the largest congregations ever assembled in 

it, comprehending some of the first inhabitants in the 

city. He also wrote a three-chapter obituary in 

the Magazine for 18 13. Of Mr. Walker's distinguished 

services as a preacher many records remain. Again 

and again in the old Magazines testimonies come to 

light as to his power as a preacher at the Octagon 

and* else where. 

On the Thursday before George Walker died an 
aged Methodist awoke at three in the morning and 
said : " My friend Mr. Walker is either gone or going, 
for I have been with him in a very spacious and 
delightful place ! We shall soon be together." And so 
it came to pass. For this was old Colin Robinson who 
died on March 16th, 1809, after a most remarkable 
career. Born in Scotland about 1729, in 1751 he 
enlisted, and was ordered to North America, and 
continued there and in the West Indies till the end of 
the war with France. In 1757 he was made a serjeant 
and remained so for 46 years. He passed unscathed 
through a great many battles and sieges till at New 
Orleans he was so severely wounded as to be fit for 


active service no longer. This led to his appointment 
as a Serjeant in the garrison at Chester, where he 
became very useful to the Methodist Society. His last 
years were spent in civil life and he gained the reputa- 
tion of being generous and self denying to a degree. 

In 1789 Mrs. Jordan, the celebrated actress, was 
fulfilling a professional engagement in Chester. A 
curious incident brought her into contact with this 
eccentric old pensioner who then kept a flour ware- 
house at the bottom of Bridge Street. The lady was 
taking shelter from a shower of rain in Pemberton's 
Parlour on the Walls. A poor widow, the mother of 
three children, followed her there, and kneeling down 
profusely thanked her for her benevolence for having 
a few days before paid her debt and secured her 
release from prison. Old Robinson witnessed the scene 
and addressed the actress, saying he wished all the 
world was like her. At first Mrs. Jordan refused to 
shake hands with him : " Well, well, you are a good 
old soul, I daresay, but — ah — I don't like fanatics ; and 
you will not like me when I tell you who I am, I am 
a player." An understanding of mutual respect was 
arrived at and the two walked away together. 

Mrs. Jordan and the Methodist is the name given to 
a Dra?na in Two Acts, contained in a volume of Original 
Dramas by James Plumptre, B.D., Vicar of Great 
Gransden, Hunts., and formerly Fellow of Clare Hall, 
Cambridge, 1818. x The author has nothing but praise 
for the characters who give their names to the play, for 

1. See article by Rev. F. C. Wright in W. H. S. Proceedings, ii., 45- 
Boaden's Life of Mrs. Jordan confirms the above story. The statement 

that Robinson was the Mtthodist concerned in it rests on the authority of 

Hemingway's History of Chester. 


the incidents of which he is indebted to a celebrated 
old book called Ryletfs Itinerant. The author " admires 
the charity and generosity of the player, and the charity 
and liberality of sentiment of the Methodist teacher." 
The words of Scripture which he adopts as the motto 
to the piece he considers may have a two-fold applica- 
tion. They may be considered as being spoken by the 
Methodist, " Can any good thing come out of the 
theatre " ? Or by a friend of the theatre, " Can anything 
liberal be expected from a Methodist " ? To each party 
it is replied, " Come and see." Mr. Robinson, who 
seems occasionally to have acted as a local preacher, 
appears as Mr. Faithful, whose "countenance" and 
" suit of sable " proclaimed his calling. 

One of the last conversions which took place 
during the Methodist occupancy of the building has 
been preserved and was on this wise. Two apprentices 
agreect to spend one Sunday evening in walking about, 
but happening to pass by the Octagon Chapel they 
thought they would just go in to hear the text, so as to 
be provided with proof of their attendance at a place of 
worship. The lads were duly conducted to a pew, the 
occupier of which passed them on to the further end 
and kept them from escaping. The preacher was 
Isaac Muff, and his text, "Thou art weighed in the 
balances and found wanting." One of the lads, 
William Carman, was so impressed that he became a 
regular attendant and was converted under Braithwaite. 
He showed the reality of his conversion by such dili- 
gence in business that his employer's wife said William 
was the best apprentice they had ever had. On one 
occasion he earned eighteen pence by extra work, and 


at his class promptly handed over one shilling for his 
ticket, and sixpence for the "yearly collection," though 
some one had kindly said he was an apprentice and 
could not afford it. Removing before long to Wrexham 
he was there a consistent supporter of the cause till 
his death in 1844. 

Another convert of this period was Mrs. Edwards 
who was deeply impressed by a sermon at the Octagon 
by John Braithwaite and became a member of the class 
led by Henry Bowers. She died in 1872 at the age of 
85, having been a missionary collector for 52 years, 
during which time it is computed she had collected 
about one thousand pounds. 

One conversion which took place in the Octagon 
Chapel at this period, and may be attributed in the main 
to the work of George Walker, was destined to have a 
vital influence upon the evangelistic and educational 
work of Methodism right down into the twentieth 
century. One day a youth who had been brought up 
in the Established Church wandered casually into 
the Methodist Chapel and was so impressed that he 
repeated his visit. Before long a sermon by George 
Walker induced him to attend the class of which he 
was the leader. The good influences thus brought to 
bear upon him reached their culminating point in the 
watchnight service of 1786 when William Moulton gave 
his heart to God. His parents were at the first 
astonished and somewhat indignant at their sou's 
union with the Methodists, but in the space of a few 
years they are both to be found meeting in the class to 
the leadership of which he had been appointed on 
the death of John Sellers, Wesley's friend. In 1794 


William Moulton entered the itinerant ranks in which 
he laboured faithfully till his death in 1835. An 
appointment to London brought about his marriage 
to Miss Egan, daughter of James Egan, LLD., of 
Greenwich, then an eminent member of the scholastic 
profession, Mrs. Moulton's mother was the daughter 
of John Bakewell, a noted early Methodist who died 
in 1819 aged 98, a tablet to whose memory may be 
seen in City Road Chapel, London . William Moulton 
was blessed with more than a dozen children, three of 
whom entered the ministry., viz. : — 

John Bakewell Moulton, iSjo-iSj 1 /. 

James Ega?i Moulton, 1828- 1866. 

Ebenezer Moulton, (A) 1835-1885. The first of 
these sons was cut off in the prime of his manhood ; 
the second became the father of the following notable 
men*: — 

Dr. James Egan Moulton, Principal of Newington 
College, Sydney, N.S.W., and Ex- President of the New 
South Wales Conference. 

Dr. William Fiddian Moulton, President of the 
Conference, 1890 ; Tutor at Richmond College ; Head- 
master of the Leys College ; Member of the New 
Testament Revision Company. Died 1898. 

John Fletcher Moulton, K C , M P Senior 

Dr. R. G. Moulto7i, Professor of English Literature 
in the University of Chicago. Author of the " Literary 
Study of the Bible " and several kindred works. 


Nor does this complete the list; for Dr. W F. 
Moulton's two sons have both entered the ministry : — 
James Hope Moulton, M.A., D. Lit. (Lond.) 
William Fiddia?i Moulton, M.A . 1 

Surely this incident teaches vividly that no service 
is to be lightly regarded, and that a single conversion 
may lead to incalculable results. 

The last few months in which the Methodists 
worshipped in the Octagon were rendered noteworthy 
by the conversion of Henry Bowers, the first Methodist 
in a family which was to be prominent in Chester 
Methodism throughout the century. He was a man 
well-known in the City, being a member of the 
Corporation, the Captain of a Company in a Regiment 
of Volunteers, a proprietor of the Theatre, and a 
manager of the festivities of the trade assembly. 
Mr. Bowers and his wife had the form of religion 
without the power of godliness and were engrossed in 
wordly things until ten months of suffering brought 
serious thought and anxiety about the things of God. 
As in countless other instances, restored health brought 
back the old indifference, and it was not for several 
years that any real change took place. Mr. Bowers 
then began to attend evangelical preaching wherever 
he could hear it. The preaching of a Prebendary at 
the Cathedral was especially blessed to him, but his 
attachment to the Methodist ministry became the 
strongest. Much outward improvement was happily 
associated with this search for light. 

i. Magazine, 1837. 

Slugg Woodhouse Grove, Memorials and Reminiscences. 1885. 
W. F. Moulton : W. F. Moulton, a Memoir, 1899. 


The visits of Mr. Bowers to the Octagon were 
made as secretly as possible so as to avoid attracting 
the attention of the public and of the Methodists 
themselves. His own expressive phrase was that he 
practised " Nicodemusing." At length by a pro- 
vidential incident he was brought into the company of 
Mrs. Samuel Warren (nee Ann Williams of Rackery) 
whose husband was the second preacher on the Circuit. 
Mrs. Bowers had an apprentice from the country named 
Burgess. The lad's mother was a Methodist, but the 
opposition of her husband was so violent that frequent 
attendance at the means of grace was impossible for her. 
She, therefore, arranged to come from time to time to 
Chester to visit her son. Mr. Burgess was furious when 
he found that she did so in order to attend Methodist 
services, and before long inserted an advertisement 
in a local paper to warn tradesmen not to give 
his wife any credit, stating that she had absconded. 
Mr. Bowers happened to read this and, wishing to 
ascertain the address in order to help if possible, set 
off to inquire from one of the preachers. He took his 
usual circuitous route to the Octagon premises, on 
which both of the preachers' houses were then situated. 

He sought the younger preacher, probably because 
Mrs. Warren was a Chester lady with whom he could 
hardly fail to be acquainted. Mr. Warren was holding 
a band meeting with Howie, a gunner from the castle, 
a zealous class leader. The very name " Band Meet- 
ing" is unfamiliar to many modern Methodists; but 
it should not be forgotten that these little gatherings 
for prayer and intercourse more confidential than even 
the class meeting permitted, played a great part in 

The Methodist Mayor of 1817 and 1827. 


early Methodism. Mrs. Warren was at home, and to 
her Mr. Bowers addressed his query. The answer, and 
the succeeding fortunes of the Burgess family do not 
concern us, for the visit proved to be the crisis of 
Mr. Bowers' experience. What took place is thus 
described by the Rev. John Bowers. 

He seized the opportunity in order to disclose the struggle 
which was then passing within him betwixt light and darkness; 
the claims of religion and the allurements of the World. 
"Mr. Bowers," said that excellent woman, " God claims the 
whole heart, He will not share it with the World." In a 
lengthened conversation with equal kindness and fidelity, she 
endeavoured to conduct his mind to that great moment of 
decision, in which he should become a new Creature in Christ 
Jesus. The momentous crisis was at hand : addressing 
Mr. Warren, who with other friends had now entered the room, 
my Father said, "Your excellent wife has been telling me that 
God requires the whole heart, and by His grace, from hence- 
forth He shall have min*." And so effectually did the 
operation of the grace of God overcome every opposing 
principle, that he added, " I entreat you all to pray for me." 
The scene which followed shall be described by himself:— I 
was soon brought to tears, and whilst each in turn wrestled 
mightily with God for me, I roared out for the disquietude of 
my soul, the powers of Hell seemed to be leagued against me 
and I knew not what to do to escape their snares and be saved. 
They urged on me to believe on Christ and I endeavoured to 
do so but Satan hindered me. I became still more excited and 
struggled until my strength seemed exhausted. But when 
human aid failed me, God worked in me more powerfully. At 
first peace gently flowed into my soul, but afterwards divine 
light poured in like a mighty torrent. I was filled with joy 
unspeakable and full of glory. I sprang from my knees and 
exchtimed, " You have all been praying for me. and now I 
feel that I can praise God together with you. I have been 
ashamed of the Cross of Christ, but now I could go to the 
most public place in the City and tell the people what God 



hath done for my soul." This concluded this most extraordin- 
ary scene.° On the next morning another scene followed 
scarcely less impressive than that of the preceding evening. 
The family was as usual convened for the purpose of prayer ; 
and after a portion of the Sacred Scriptures had been read, my 
dear Father, in the most affecting manner, declared to us the 
great and blessed change which he had experienced. He 
endeavoured to convince us that it was as necessary for us as 
for him, and with many tears he exhorted us to seek it. He 
had been accustomed to use a form of prayer, but now his book 
was thrown aside, and, to adopt his own language, " I opened 
my mouth to God : the Lord filled it, and gave me great 
liberty of speech." We all mingled our tears with his; and 
on that memorable morning impressions were produced upon 
the minds of several members of the family, which at no 
distant period issued in their conversion to God. 
Dr. Osborn * transcribes the entry from the family 
Bible: — 

Henry Bowers, born again of the Spirit, July 16th, 1810. 
John Bowers, born again of the Spirit, July 19th, 1810. 
Elizabeth Bowers, Jun., died December, 181 1, aged n years. 
Thomas Bowers, received a strong conviction of sin at the 
time of his brother's conversion ; but cannot exactly 
ascertain when God manifested Himself to his soul. 
Elizabeth Bowers [afterwards Mrs. Janion] . Her heart was 
gently opened, as Lydia's. 

Soon after his conversion Mr. Bowers was made a 
class leader ; nor was it long before he began to preach, 
his labours being especially bestowed on various parts 
of North Wales where an English sermon was rarely 
heard. His first sermon in Chester attracted many 
who were not accustomed to attend the Chapel, the 
spectacle of an alderman occupying a Methodist pulpit 
being then a great novelty. Faithful to the truth so 
recently revealed to him, Mr. Bowers adopted as his 

1. Memoir of Rev. John Bowers, Mag., 1870. 


text the great saying, " Except a man be born again, 
he cannot see the kingdom of God." Now it was in 
those days necessary, or at least desirable, that local 
preachers should takeout licences under the Toleration 
Act. Consequently Mr. Bowers appeared at the Quarter 
Sessions to obtain the certificate. The ordeal, severe 
enough in itself, was rendered the harder to bear by 
the fact that the Alderman had to produce a plan 
shewing himself to be only " on trial." 

Twice did the honours of the Mayoralty of the City 
fall to Mr. Henry Bowers, in 1817 and 1827 ; there was 
some hesitation in his mind about this important 
matter, but he deemed the office to be one which duty 
called him to accept. There was much unworthy 
opposition to his election on the ground that he was a 
Methodist ; it was proposed to him that this would be 
waived if he would content himself with private 
membership and leave off preaching. Mr. Bowers 
made the honourable reply, " No, I esteem it a much 
greater honour to preach the Gospel than to be Mayor 
ol Chester, and I will make no such stipulation." 
Dr. Osborn says in his article that, as far as he could 
learn, Mr. Henry Bowers was the only Methodist thus 
re-elected, before the passing of the Municipal Corpora- 
tions Act in 1835. J The figures in the contest of 1S17 
were: Seller 271; Bowers 268; Bradford 58. The 
Aldermen having the right to choose one of the two 
highest, elected Bowers. 

1. The earliest instance of a Methodist Mayor seems to have been that of 
William Parker, at Bedford, 1757 (W.H.S. Proceedings, it., 123). Henry Bowers 
seems to have been the only Wesleyan Mayor Chester ever had, with the 
exception ut Richard Buckley, who died from cholera during his year of office 1S32 
See Magazine, 1832; and Dyson's Condition Methodism. 


The religion to which Mr. Bowers consecrated his 
years of strength supported him when they were 
succeeded by years of painful disease, and his faith in 
God never wavered. 

It is an interesting circumstance, that to the very close of 
his life he was permitted to engage in those exercises of piety, 
and of Christian love, whence through a period of twenty 
years, he had derived his chief happiness. On the evening 
preceding his decease he met his class. The fervour and 
elevation of his feelings, and the energy and fidelity of his 
addresses, were more than usually impressive. It is remarked 
by an individual present : — He spake as one standing on the 
threshold of Heaven, and concluded the description of his own 
feelings by observing with unusual pathos : I feel most 
sensibly, and this is what I want each of you to feel, 
Every moment, Lord, I need 
The merit of the Saviour's death. 

After performing the devotions of the family he retired, 
intending on the following day to unite with his Christian 
brethren in the service of public prayer : but at the hour at 
which they were met to pour forth their supplications in the 
courts of an earthly sanctuary, he passed to mingle with a 
more glorious assembly, and to unite in the pure and exalted 
services of that Temple not made with hands, eternal in the 

In St. John Street Chapel is a tablet inscribed as 
under : — 

This tablet is erected in memory of Alderman Henry 
Bowers, who in the vigorous maturity of his days, renounced 
the vanities of the world, for the service and reproach of 
Christ. Having twice served his fellowcitizens as Mayor of 
Chester and accomplished a long period of useful service as a 
class leader and local preacher in the Methodist Society, and 
as an assiduous and faithful guardian of the interests of this 
chapel, he finished his course with joy on the eighth day of 
January in the year of our Lord 1830, and in the 60th year of 


his age. He is remembered with affectionate veneration as a 
zealous, consistent and devout Christian, as an able active and 
upright magistrate, as a father wisely kind and eminently 
successful, as a man in whom great benevolence was com- 
bined with quick discernment, and extraordinary ardour with 
invincible perseverance. 

In the same grave repose the earthly remains of Elizabeth 
his wife, whose amiable character and sterling piety justly 
endeared her to her family and friends. She died in the Lord 
on the 26th day of April, 1824, aged 53 years. 

Ann Bowers, the sister of Henry Bowers, died 
August 20th, 1836, aged 74 years. 

Of Mr. Bowers as a class leader Mr. W E. White- 
house of Birmingham tells the following interesting 
reminiscence : — 

" The Rev. Josiah Goodwin told me that on a visit to 
Chester in one of the early years of this century, he attended 
a class meeting led by Mr. Henry Bowers. The leader stood 
in a desk, and from thence gave his exhortations to the 
members, in a manner so able, authoritative, and impressive 
that his youthful hearer never forgot it." 

Mrs. Henry Bowers was at the first chagrined at 
her husband's Methodism, but she too soon came to 
know the Saviour. She was converted under the 
ministry of the Rev John Braithwaite, and for many 
years was a devoted class leader. 

The Rev. John Bowers was born at Chester on the 
19th of June, 1796. It was, therefore, on his fourteenth 
birthday that his conversion, already recorded, took 
place, he being then a school-boy spending the summer 
vacation at home. Opportunity was soon afforded for 
Christian service, and John Bowers was received as 
a probationer for the ministry at an unprecedently 
early age. In those days candidates were stationed 


immediately on being received, and in the Minutes of 
1813 John Bowers appears as the junior preacher in the 
Northwich Circuit with his father's old friend Samuel 
Warren as superintendent. The Rev. John Bowers 
rose to the front rank of Methodist preachers of his day, 
and after serving his Church in a number of important 
Circuits, spent the last twenty years of his active 
ministry as the Governor of the Theological Institution 
at Didsbury. In 1858 the Conference elected him 
President. On May the 30th, 1866, he passed peacefully 
away at Southport whither he retired as Supernumerary 
in 1864. 

It will be convenient to give here a list of certain 
members of the Bowers family. 

The children of Alderman Henry Bowers were : — 

The Rev. John Bowers. 

Elizabeth, who died as a child in 181 1. 

Thomas Bowers, Steward of St. John Street for a 
short period when quite a young man (1816;, 
and subsequently from 1831 to his death 
January 28th, 1848, at the age of 50. 

Elizabeth, who married Joseph Janion, junr., died 
January 5th, 1847, aged 46 years. 

7 he children of Thomas Bowers were : — 

Thomas Bowers, junr., known as Alderman Bowers, 

who was Steward at St. John Street from 1848 

till his death in 1878. 
James Done Bowers, who was Steward at St. John 

Street from 1878 till his death in 1895. 
Henry Richard Bowers, actively associated with 

the St. John Street Trust, and of later years 


with City Road, passed away in his 8ist year 
on May 20tti, 1902. 

The conversion of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bowers 
soon led to the conversion of a young lady who had 
acted as bridesmaid at their marriage, and is described 
as a beloved and confidential friend, Miss Sarah 
Broster, daughter of Alderman Peter Broster (Mayor 
1791), and granddaughter of a Mayor of Chester already 
referred to. Her first serious impressions were derived 
from reading the writings of Mrs. H. A. Rogers, and 
were confirmed by the influence of her writing master, 
a Methodist, who had singing and prayer with his 
pupils. Soon after she began to attend the Octagon 
some waggish friends, as they were teasing her, begged 
her to defer preaching until the new chapel was built 
so as not to endanger lives in the old one. The 
ministry of Mr. Braithwaite was a blessing to her ; a 
sermon on Nicodemus, Henry Bowers' favourite text, 
being specially mentioned. In 18 13 Miss Broster 
became a member and was brought into happy associa- 
tion with the devoted Williams sisters. She died in 
March, 1837, at the age of 66, having never married. 
A tablet to her memory may be seen in St. John Street 
Chapel. l 

On a previous page it has been mentioned that 
the Rev. George Lowe was perturbed at the sight of 
two "classical academies" in the congregation; and 
reference has been made to Mr. John Sellers, local 
preacher and " instructor of youth " ; also to Mr. 
Hobrow. These educational establishments played a 

1. Rev. I' C. Turner Memoirs of Miss Sarah Hrrstrr of Chester. 1839. 


considerable part in the Methodist life of the City, and 
several conversions more or less closely connected 
with them are on record. About this period Robert 
Bentham (minister 18 12- 1843) was converted in one 
of them. " He was designed by his parents for the 
ministry of the Established Church, and enjoyed the 
benefit of a liberal education. When about twenty 
3 T ears of age, he undertook the duties of Classical 
Tutor in a private school [presumably in Chester] in 
which the Rev. John Bowers, at that time a youth, 
who, together with his parents, had recently been 
brought to a saving knowledge of God by means of 
the Methodist ministry, was placed as a pupil. The 
youth became the religious guide of his tutor." He 
was soon afterwards converted, joined the Methodist 
Society, and began to preach. 

Mr. George Burton, a Methodist of the Manchester 
District, who died in 1852, often adverted in his later 
years to the sacred opportunities he enjoyed as a pupil 
at an acadenw in Chester. The principal was a local 
preacher, and the boys committed to his care shared 
largely in his prayerful anxiety. 

Yet another convert may be claimed for the 
academies. Mr. Charles Simpson who was born at 
Wilmslow in 1797, was sent to Chester to continue his 
studies. Under the influence of Alderman Bowers he 
became a Methodist. He filled t many useful positions, 
and in the course of his career, was a local preacher, 
class reader, and trustee, residing at Runcorn and at 
lymra. He came to Chester in 1837. He died at 
Bowdon in 187 1. Mr. Simpson suffered during the 
latter part of his life from lameness due to a horse-kick 


received when returning from a country appointment. 
Full of interest is the following extract from the 

Life of John Birchenall, M.R.C.S., of Macclesfield, by 

the Rev. A. J French, B.A. 

Dr. Birchenall, who was born at Macclesfield in 

1800, says : — 

In my fifteenth year my father took me and a younger 
brother to a respectable commercial and classical school in 
Chester. Of the gentlemen who had the direction 

of this establishment and their associates in the tutorship I 
have a respectful and affectionate remembrance. 
Twice in the week my evenings were devoted to the acquisi- 
tion of Hebrew Grammar, under the tuition of a professor of 
Oriental languages. He was a member of the Independent 
Congregation in Queen Street, and a capital Hebraist. 
The most important advantages, however, accruing to me 
from my sojourn in Chester were of a religious character. My 
father, in his solicitude for our well being in a moral point of 
view, had engaged on our behalf the kindly interest of the 
Misses Williams, and of Mr. Bowers' family, from whom we 
received tokens of Christian kindness which made a deep 
impression on our youthful minds ; indeed I may say, the 
conversations, the affectionate counsels, the exemplary walk, 
the urbanity, the prayers of my new friends were the means, 
under the divine blessing, of forming my religious character. 
By the ladies named first I was taken to the class of Mr. 
Howie, an aged pensioner, and the gunner of the castle, and 
moreover a valiant soldier of the Lord Jesus. He had a 
numerous array of members, many of them from the more 
respectable walks of life, others ship artisans, or persons of 
kindred occupations ; but the simplicity ; the pious fervour, the 
perfect fellowship, which pervaded the whole, could not fail to 
remind a thoughtful person on his first visits of the primitive 
forms of Christianity, and to awaken gracious emotions. Of 
the leader I may just observe, that though I have since known 
many excellent men, and some who were deeply devoted to 
God, one who lived so much " within the vail " as did 
Mr. Howie, I have not yet had the happiness to find. 


Two of the most notable familes mentioned in 
previous chapters* were brought into association when 
in 1792 George Lowe, junior, married Miss Cawley,. 
the granddaughter of Mr. Stephen Cawley, of the Moat 
House, Alpraham. It is recorded that Mary Cawley 
had profited much under the ministry of Costerdine 
and Fenwick. Mr. I,owe long survived his wife, and 
passed his later years in fellowship with the New 
Connexion. A tablet in Pepper Street Chapel is erected 
in memory of George Lowe, of this city, Assay Master f 
who died December 28th, 1841, aged 73. Also Mary Lowe, 
wife of the above, who died June 22nd, i8iq, aged 58. 
They are both interred at Bunbury. The youngest of the 
four daughters of this worthy couple was a convert of 
the Rev. J S. Pipe, whose words were blessed to her 
when he was meeting the class of Miss Martha Williams 
to which she belonged. She married Mr. J. F. Wathew, 
an$ was an active class leader for a long period ; for a 
time at Tipton, and afterwards at Chester. She died 
Feb. 8th, 1858. x It will not be deemed an improper 
departure irom the reticence of this book about living 
persons to say that the old names appear once more in 
the case of a recent steward of the Chester Circuit: 
Mr. Alfred Wathew Butt, son of the late Mr. Alderman 
Francis Butt and Mrs. Mary Cawley Butt. This 
devoted Methodist lady last mentioned was the daughter 
of Mr. J F. Wathew, and was born at Tipton in 1831, 
and after a long life of great usefulness passed away 
in Chester on February 19th, 1898. 

1. Mag. 1861. A century of family religion : Some Memorials of the late 
Mrs. Wathew of Chester ; with notices of her Mother and Grandmother. By the 
Rev. Thomas BrooRes. 


An older daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Lowe, 
junior, lived to the remarkable age of 92, and is well 
remembered by many of the present generation. From 
a memorial sketch contributed to the Magazine at the 
time of her death by the Rev. John M. Bamford it is 
gathered that Mrs. Jane Moss was born in Chester in 
1797, and in 1810 was meeting in the class of Miss 
Martha Williams. She states however that she served 
God as a servant rather than as an adopted child till 
1 8 16, when a service conducted by the Rev. G. Smith 
was greatly blessed to her. Mrs. Moss records that in 
1817 the Rev. Elliot Jones, a returned West Indian 
Missionary, visited his native city, and was the instru- 
ment of a wonderful revival in the course of which she 
received a blessing that abode with her through life. 
In 1818 Mrs. Moss succeeded Miss Martha Williams as 
class leader. Her own words are "my beloved leader 
died " ; but Mrs. Moss was writing in extreme age 
when memory is often treacherous, and at this point 
she certainly goes astra}*- ; for in 1818 Miss Martha 
Williams married the Rev. Joseph Roberts. It was not 
long before the class was again robbed of its leader by 
a minister, the Rev. Thomas Moss, with whom this 
devoted lady lived till in 1859 she returned to her 
native city a widow. She there became a leader once 
more and maintained an interest more than usually 
alert and active in Christian work until her peaceable 
departure in 1889. 

It is now time to mention some of the members 
belonging to the country parts of the Circuit at this 
period. Obituaries of some of these are preserved 
in the old Circuit register, most of them in the 


hand-writing of Francis West. Each of these brief 
records narrates a triumph of grace; each name, 
forgotten on earth, is forever registered on high 

John Dutton, father-in-law of John Gregory, of 
Rowton, was admitted by F. West and shortly after 
passed away. Ann Williams, a widow, of the same 
village, is also mentioned. The covenant service for 
1803 at the Octagon brought good to John Baker, 
Shoemaker. In October of the same year he lost his 
wife Harriet who was the daughter of James Barry 
a travelling preacher whose widow and family had 
settled in Chester. 

Peter Dickinson, of Eaton, was converted through 
the words of three friends who visited him to converse 
about the forgiveness of sins. Mr. West called on him 
the day before he died. 

A strange thing is narrated in the memoir of 
Elizsfbeth Garner, a member who died at Tarporley in 
1803. "It is something remarkable" says her husband, 
" the same night in which my wife died my son James 
at Macclesfield, thirty miles distant, dreamed his 
mother was dead, and saw her spirit come to him and 
kissed him and said to him weep not, thy mother is 
not dead but living." 

John Jones, of Holywell, was an Octagon convert. 
He received the sacrament at the hands of F. West 
shortly before he died. 

A good Christian was Mary Roberts at Eaton, who 
told Dr. Townley she had known the love of God 
about forty years, " I never was weary of his service, 
nor had a desire to turn back, but fears lest I should." 


CDc Po$t=metDodi$t ftistorp of m Octaaon 


The Octagon Chapel was the centre of Chester 
Methodist life from 1765 to 181 1. It is stated in 
Walker's MS. that when the site was procured for a 
new Chapel, the old property near the Bars was offered 
for sale, having been previously valued by Mr. John 
Fletcher, and Mr. John Bedward (builder), both of 
Chester, with the following results : — 

Lots 1, 2, 3. The first three houses on the western side 
of the passage leading from the street to the chapel, ^"352. 

Lot 4. The school adjoining the last houses, ,£214 4s. 

Lot 5. The preacher's house, with its appurtenances, 
adjoining the school, £270. 

Lot 6. The chapel, the preacher's house behind the 
chapel, with the garden and stable, but not including the 
seats, pews, and other furniture in the chapel, ^"914. 

Lot 7. A garden or yard with a shed, on the eastern side 
of the passage leading from the street to the chapel, £50. 

Lots 8, g, 10. The three houses adjoining the last yard 
and shed, £368, making a total of £2168 4s. — the Saint John 
of Jerusalem rent, and the land tax upon the whole, being 
affixed in this valuation taken on the eighth day of June, upon 
the lot in which the chapel is included. 

The auctioneer's announcement was in the follow- 
ing terms : — 

Valuable Freehold Property 
To be sold by Auction. 
At the house of Mr. Daniel Williams, the Hop-Pole Inn, 
in the City of Chester, on Wednesday, the twelveth [sic] day 
of June, 181 1, between the hours of four and six o'clock in the 
alternoon, in lots, subject to such conditions as will be then 
and there produced, — 

All that extensive brick building, called or known by the 
name of the Octagon Chapel, in Foregate Street, in the City 


of Chester, together with an excellent dwelling house there- 
unto adjoining, on the north side thereof, and also a stable 
[£2 ios.J, and good garden, thirty-six feet by seventeen, and 
now in the occupation of the reverend John Braithwaite £15.] 
Likewise, all those several Messuages or Dwelling houses, 
and a large new building, now occupied as a Sunday school, 
[which may at a trifling expence be converted into two 
dwellings) leading to the said chapel, in the several holdings 
of the reverend Isaac Muff [£15), Mr. Richard Jones [£"15], 
Mrs. Mary Cookson [£4 4s.], Mrs. Ann Pritchard [£4 4s.], 
Mr. John Dutton [£4], Mr. Roberts [£15], Mrs. Chantler 
£4 4S.J , and Mrs. Susan Duke [£4 4S.J The above premises 
are well supplied with water, and admirably calculated for any 
establishment requiring extent of room. 

For particulars enquire of Mr. John Garner, Junior, 
Solicitor, or of Messrs. Powell and Son, Auctioneers, Eastgate 
This announcement was absolutely without result. 
It was a time of great depression, the winter having 
been marked by many failures ; no one appeared at the 
sale, ^.nd not a single bid was made for any one part of 
the property. Such facts as these should be borne in 
mind when the enterprises of the Methodists of those 
days are contemplated. Their boldness under all the 
circumstances was marvellous ; the old property at the 
Octagon, the site in Foregate Street, and the extensive 
purchase in St. John Street were all on hand at once, 
as will appear from the later pages of this history. 

In November of the same year a notice in similar 
terms was issued offering the property for sale by 
private contract. From this we learn that the annual 
rents of the houses, etc., were the amounts inserted in 
square brackets in the notice above. 

Mr. Walker's long and closely written MS. comes 
to a close when he has recorded this notice, and the 


transactions by which the Octagon property finally 
passed out of Methodist possession have to be sought 
in other quarters. On March 12th, 1814, a balance of 
^338 was carried over from the Octagon concern to the 
credit of St. John Street. 

As far as can be gathered the chapel passed in 18 13 
into the hands of the successors of the Rev. Philip 
Oliver, of whose career a few explanatory words may 
be said here. He was born in 1763, and belonged to a 
good Chester family. For some time after the com- 
pletion of his studies he was Curate at Churton Heath, 
Cheshire, though probably without any deep religious 
convictions. In his twenty-eighth year a severe illness 
was the means of his awakening. Removing to 
Birmingham he became Curate to the Rev. E. Burn, 
at St. Mary's, where he found full scope for his gifts. 
His health however was not good, and he shortly 
returned to Chester, taking up his residence with his 
mother, a widow lady living in her own house at 
Boughton. There he preached in a place of worship 
extemporised in the garden and coach house (circa 
1793). Multitudes attended his ministry, and the 
consequent inconvenience and disorder caused him to 
incur the disapprobation of his ecclesiastical superiors. 
Mr. Janion, (p. 66 of his book), describes the preaching 
of Mr. Oliver in high terms. He heard him preach at 
Boughton ; also at Tarvin, where his first sermon was 
a " masterpiece of oratory." 

Mr. Oliver died in 1800, and was interred at St. 
John's Church in the presence of thousands who crowded 
together from all parts of the City and neighbourhood. 
This brief notice by no means tells the full story of 


Mr. Oliver's evangelistic work, for at his death no less 
than six chapels were left by will to the Rev. Thomas 
Charles of Bala and two other friends. As the chapel 
in Boughton was not conveniently situated for worship- 
pers residing in Chester itself the provisions of the will 
made it competent for the trustees to hand over the 
Boughton estate to Mr. Oliver's surviving brother on 
receipt of a money payment wherewith to erect a new 
chapel in a more suitable place. 

Mr. Oliver's trustees, in the exercise of these 
powers, purchased the Octagon chapel. For a period 
two ministers of the Countess of Huntingdon's Con- 
nexion carried on the work. In 1852 the Rev. Philip 
Oliver's chapels were legally transferred to the Calvinistic 
Methodist, or Presbyterian, Church of Wales, two 
ministers of that denomination being at that time 
in charge of the work in the city and country. In 
1864, precisely one hundred years after its erection, 
came the end of the Octagon Chapel. There was a great 
rallying of the Methodists of the city to attend the 
final service in the renowned sanctuary. A handsome 
new building was erected by the Presbyterians nearly 
on the same site. 1 The important thoroughfare of 
City Road was at that time laid out ; the old chapel had 
to come down because it obstructed the building line. 
The modern Wesleyan Chapel in City Road is on the 
opposite side of the way and some fifty yards nearer 
the General Station. 

1. The Pastor in 1900 was the Rev. D. Treborth Jones, by whom some 
of these particulars were kindly supplied. 

*"' *- ^Drrthe Mission of" Christ.- 




.m i ! — ■■» t)ft tmWWWWW M iii j.. 

On SUNDAY Evening, December 29, 179$, a SELECTION of MUSIC, oft the Irtcarnaimn 
of q$r Redeemer .... the revolving I/ear ....and the Sunday~schmk .... will be sung in the 
OCTAGON Chapel, Chester. 

|P*e Pieces chosen froin the Works of G. F. HANDEL, Mr. K. TAYLOR, and Mr. J LEACH. 

Scrvkr to begin at Six e'Ctok* * 



i majesty will not despise 

I'bedavor* feeble tMntsi 

f Gra%fo] the song* of t -l^jd$en rise, 



> Grateful ill"^ of t - l^M |en rise 
| And praise the RingwXStgs. 

HA JUT.' hark what soul-transporting § 
strains - 2 ... 

Burst from the empyrean plains ' '-string, I 
Ail Heaven^ bright harpers strike the I 
And seraphs blissful tiUit.g*Bing. g DUET. 

| Tlie sucklings are his tender carr, 

.ill his kind protection share . 
Within his anus we rest: 

To u* is born th* incarnate Word, 
jesu-*, the glory of I he Lord. | 

Ifiin shall all tie-di with rapture view, 
Bow the glad knee, and worship too. 
He comes ' by prophets long .foretold. 
To gather Israel to bis fold ; 
AiwT thejAor Gentiles, from afar, 
Miall hail with joy lite Morning Star, 
Tim is ihe glorious Child, that shall 
Break down sin's separating wall. 
Redeem with blood the fallen race, 
T* exalt bis aft-victorious grace. 
This is the woman's promiVd Seed : 
"Us He shah bruise ih'td-j Serpent's head, 
Despoil Hell's ComTror of hi* sting, 
And mafiy sons to glon bring. 
Triumph and reign, redeeming Lord ..^ 
Gird on thy Gospel's CCtaq*ri»g sword .... 
Till to ih\ throne ail lauds sfaau raise .... 
m & t &Qpihiim , <j frp jejqai praiss^ *, _ __ _ . 

9 f if *> 

rJk. * BEFORE #* 



On the changing Seasons : 

To be sung by the Congregation. 

KTEUNAL Source of ev'ry joy, 
Well may thy praise our lip» employ, 
While in thy temple we appear, 
"Whose goodness crowns the circling year. 
While, as the wheels of nature roil, 
Thy hand supports the steady pole. 
The sun is taught by Thee to nse, 

jj And darkness when to veil the skies. 
Seasons renew'd, and years and days, 
|)emand successive songs of praise ; 
Still be the grateful homage paid, 
With op'ning light, and ev'ning shade. 
And may we, with harmonious' tongue, 
la realms unknown pursue the song; 
tVFe in those brighter courts adore, 

, W^pli iiii;i ad _ revolve j^uuore, 

\. Idle hanging ou the breast, 


1 We praise him »ith a stamm'ring tongue, 
| \S liile under his defence : 

| lie smiles to hear the artless song 
I Of childish iimoccnceA 

I He loves to be remember'd thus, 
I And honor'd for his grace : 
| Out of tin- mouths oi babe* like us 
His wisdom perfects praise. 

Glory to God, and praiy, -and power, 

Honor and thanks be given ' 
Children and cheriibtn adore 

The Lord of Earth and Heaven. 


ltapt into future times, the bard begun, 
A virgin *haH conceive^ and be<ir a Son. 

air. - 

Y<- Lejy^ns' frmn^jflj. th,* ^W^^' l 

And ib *©a silence shed 'the kmdlvsioww^ 
The sick and weak the healing I 'Um *h0 ' 

From storms a shelter, and from he*** a 

Swift fly the years, and rise th' expected 

Ospiiug to I i;: !.!..!!.■; 'hi ' born' 

See nature bastes ht-r earliest wreathes to 

bring, faring: 

With all the incense of the biealatng 

See lofty Lebanon hi-, head advanre ... 
See nodding forests on the motuttaifts 

dance : 
See spicy clouds from lowly. Nh.tron i i^e .... 
And Canoei's (lowers top perftrute* the 



Hark 1 a glad votct* the lonely, desert 

cheers f 
Prepare the way { a Cod, a God appears ' 
ciroR^yss -, . ... 

A God! a God ! the vne.,1 hills r,.;,l .... 

The rocks proclaim th' approaching Oeuv 

Lo, earth receives him fcom the bendir.K 
kie« r f (i, 


The Messiah. 


COMFORT je, comfort ye my people, j Sink down, ye mountains ' mi, \t vtl- 

saith your God. S{>eak. ye comfortably I ^ ith heads dechtt'd, ye cedars, hmnage 

lo Jerusalem, and ctv unto her, that her I l^y i tp ve wa y ' 

warfare is 3rcomplished, that her ini- 1 lieSntooth, ye rocks 1 ye rapid floods, 

OUtt, h pardoued. RECITATIVE.. 

1 he voice of him that crieth in the ss-il- | No sigh, no murmur, the wide <>.-ortd shall 

derness. Prepare ye the way of the Lord, I hear; 

mai.L- straight in lite desert'a highway for i From ev'ry face he vsipes ort* e»Vs tear, 
our God. 


- . An Ode, \ 

W5F R>r the Sunday-schools. 

fin this piece, the children of the charity 
" *B1 take a principal pajjtv) 

. let ds join the hosts above, 
in our youngest days, 
ember our Creator's love, 
h»p our Father** praise. 


And the glory of the [x»rd shall be re- 

\ ealed, and all fle<h shall see it together j 

for the mouth of the l/>rd hath spoken it. 

For, behold ' darkness shall cover the 
earth, and gross darkness the people : but 
the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his 
glory shall be seen upon thee j and the 
Gentiles shall come to thy tight, and Kings 
to the brightnes. of thy^tMOg. 


Hose beautiful are the feel of them that 
preach the Gospel of peacit, and brimr 
glad tidings of good things-! 

Their tound Is gone ottt into all lands 
and their svotds untothe^dsofthcsvorld. 


The Lord gave the word : great was the 
company of the preachers. 

Ye nymphs of Solyroa I begin the song ■ 
To .heavenly themes suhjimer stratus be- 


In adamantine chains' shali Dt? ; he 

hound, j •- . ,„„ .,- 

And Hell's grim Tyrant fetl th'".' :sa! 

K'se. crown'd with light ,« iinperial Saleta 

rise 1 
Exalt thy tow'ry head.anu lift thine eyes! 

See Heaven its sparkling portafe w!ejis. 8 

f"p}» - -•» - , _ . slto_^^.s» % ■ 

And break upon thee in a flood of' dav ' 
Oerflow thy couits: the Ligst iuu'14. If 

shall shine 
Keveal'd, and God's eternal day be thine F 
The sea's shall waste, the skies in Kaofce 9 

B d ? aj >., , C^ay: ; 

Kocks tall lo dost, and mountaim w^t | 

iiut hxdhts word „,.hh) sating pow'r re- 'A 

tnalnsj i .+ " r *i 


, , Hallelujah. Atnea. * "% 

y:i ^ffiXSg!Jai ^ 

Sunday School Anniversary Hymn Sheet, 1799. 


Cbe Commencement or rttetbodist 
Sunday ScDool and Dap ScDool Work in Cbester, 

THE Methodists in Chester began their work on 
behalf of poor and neglected children when the 
Sunday School movement was in its infancy, and it 
ma}' fairly be claimed for them that they were the 
first promoters of such work in their own City. The 
following sketch of the beginnings of Wesleyan 
Sunday School work in Chester was written early in 
the century in the original Journal of the School, 
which bears on its brass clasp the date 1782. On the 
flyleaf is inscribed Journal of the St. John Street 
Sunday School, City of Chester, instituted in the year 
i/Sj by Thomas Be?inctt and George Lowe, Superintend- 
ents : — 

Respecting the commencement of the Octagon Sunday 
School which was the first Sunday School that was established 
in the City of Chester. 

It is much to be regretted that no proper Memorandum 
was ever made of the Commencement of the Sunday School, 
the neglect cannot be attributed so much to want of interest in 
the cause, as from a natural propensity of the mind which 
arises from having a perfect knowledge of the event at the 
time such an event takes place which produces an indifference 


on our part as to perpetuating the knowledge in such a manner 
as will secure to posterity the exact period of time, which can 
only be accomplished by written documents penned at the 
time of such an event, for if it be left to treacherous Memory 
alone the knowledge will become fainter and fainter till at last 
like the snuff of a waisting candle it expires. Then " Shadows 
Clouds and Darkness rest upon it." 

I have, however, been fortunate enough to procure from 
faint Memory's glimmering torch that light which enables me 
with some degree of accuracy to ascertain the precise period 
of the commencement of Sunday School Labours in this 
Ancient City. (This memoradum taken from Mr. Fearnal, 
20th September, 1824.) Mr. George Lowe, Miller; Mr. 
Thomas Bennett, Ironfounder; Mr. Seller; Mr. George Lowe, 
Goldsmith ; Mr. Fearnal, Watchmaker ; commenced Sunday 
Schools in Handbridge and Flookersbrook when Mr. Fearnal 
had attained the age of 23 years. Mr. Fearnal was born in 
the year 1758, which makes the period 1781, and when 
Mr. Fearnal had left the City the aforesaid persons com- 
menced the Octagon Sunday School in the year 1781, which 
was taught in the Chapel from 9 to 12 o'clock in the morning, 
and from £ past 1 to 4 o'clock in the afternoon. They were 
afterwards taught in the new School which was built on the 
West side of the Octagon Yard in 1806, consisting of a ground 
and Upper Floor 16ft 3m. by 36ft. gin. within and furnished 
with Writing Desks, Benches and every requisite, for which 
was paid a yearly rent of Ten Pounds or more properly speak- 
ing to defray the interest of the money laid out upon the 
property. The New School situate on the South side of St. 
John Street Chapel Yard was entered upon March 25th, 1813, 
for which was paid the sum of £12 10s. to defray the interest 
of the money laid out upon the property. For the space of 
Fourteen Years the institution was supported by voluntary 
contributions obtained by personal application to the friends of 
the cause, once in every year, which finally became so irksome 
both to contributors and collectors that a less objectionable 
method was needful, therefore that of making an annual 
collection in the Chapel was adopted in 1796, when Anthems 


were sung in the Chapel on the Evening of Christmas Day in 
honour of that festival. The first selection of sacred music 
was sung in 1795, which led to its repetition in 1796. The 
Sermon on this occasion was preached by Mr. George Walker, 
Goldsmith, agreeable to notice given in Bills delivered to 
the public. The Receipt of this Collection, although a few 
shillings under Six pounds, gratified the Managers and friends 
of the School. The Collection in 1797 exceeded that in 1796. 

An additional note as follows is appended to this 

historical sketch : — 

Sundry Remarks. — 

George Lowe, Goldsmith, is of opinion that the Octagon 
Sunday School was commenced at the same time as the 
Handbridge and Commonhall Lane Schools which was in 
the year 1782, when George Lowe was 14 years of age, 
and he was born in 1768. This may appear to contradict 
Mr. Fearnal's statement, but by examination it will only tend 
to confirm it, as Mr. Fearnal might have been in the 24th 
year of his age though he had not attained to the completion 
of the year. The children were in the habit of attending the 
Church of St. John the Baptist every Sabbath day when 
the weather permitted, the hour of attendance at school on 
such occasion was from nine o'clock until Church hours, but 
if the weather was unfavourable the School was not open 
until 10 o'clock, and was closed at 12 o'clock. 

The date 1782, appearing on the clasp of the original 
Journal, is given also, as already stated, in the historical 
sketch contained within that book, and also on the anni- 
versary programme for 1799. The same date moreover 
is assigned on an old printed copy of the Rules of the 
Methodist Stmday School, St. John Street, Chester, 
instituted in the year zjSj : Thomas Bennett and George 
Lowe, Superintendents, which is now framed and sus- 
pended in the Pepper Street Schoolroom. There seems 
to be no ground for doubting this date. Nevertheless 
there are some records which speak of 1786 as the date 
of the establishment of a Sunday School. From an 


article by Thomas Marriott is taken the following state- 
ment of Richard Rodda (Chester preacher 1785 — 6). 

In this year (1786) in conjunction with the leading 
members of our Society, we formed a Sunday School in the 
City of Chester. We presented the rules to the Bishop, who 
approved of them without the slightest alteration. We soon 
had nearly seven hundred children under regular masters, and, 
with these, several Assistants, who taught the children gratis, 
having nothing in view but the good of the rising generation. 
We had no intention (as some persons represented) to make 
disciples to Methodism, but to train them up in the nurture 
and admonition of the Lord, that they might be useful members 
of civil and religious Society. Under the care of their different 
masters and teachers, they were taken once every Lord's day 
to the Church ; and the regularity of their behaviour attracted 
the notice of many of the citizens. God blessed our school 
for many years, and I hope thousands will have reason to 
praise Him forever for this institution. x 

Mr. Marriott prints a letter of John Wesley which 
* also refers to this enterprise. 

London, January 17th, 1787. 
My Dear Brother, 

I am glad you have taken in hand that blessed work of 
setting up Sunday Schools in Chester. It seems to me that 
these will be one great means of reviving religion throughout 
the nation. I wonder Satan has not yet sent out some able 
champion against them. 

It is a good thing to stop Mr. Salmons ; but it would be a 
far greater to reclaim him. And why should we suppose it to be 
impossible ? Who knows the power of mighty prayer ? 

As I must take Plymouth Dock in my way to Bristol, I 
must make as swift a journey as I can from Bristol to Dublin ; 
so I shall have little time to halt by the way. 

I am, 
Your affectionate friend and brother, 

To Mr. Rodda, at the Octagon, in Chester. 

1. Mag., June, 1846. 


Wesley's familiarity with Methodist work in 
Chester was so intimate that he cannot have been 
in error as to the commencement of the Sunday School 
labour. Careful study of the following pieces of inform- 
ation which have come to hand from various sources 
seems to point to the conclusion that there were two 
efforts of a Sunday School character. If this be so, 
then the earlier one was in all probability distinctively 
Methodist, only slightly organised, and possibly not at 
first designated by the now familiar title of Sunday 
School. The school referred to by Mr. Rodda was 
probably " general," though in the main promoted by 
Methodists. Possibly this later work was an extension 
of that already in operation ; possibly entirely distinct. 
In the latter case, the Methodists, who do not appear 
to have been treated quite fairly, must have withdrawn 
from this wider work as others took it up, and as their 
own school developed. But it is a tangled story, and 
more information is required to make all quite clear. 
Mr. W E. Whitehouse of Birmingham says : — 

I have often heard it stated that Mr. Walker and my 
great grandfather, Geo. Lowe, senr., began this school in a 
room said once to have been a hermitage, at the south side of 
St. John's Churchyard, and that the boys and girls were 
regularly marched to the Sunday morning service at St. John's 
Church. I have also heard it repeatedly affirmed that Messrs. 
Walker and Lowe knew nothing of the same purpose being 
entertained, or put into practice by any other persons, as for 
instance, Raikes of Gloucester, but that it arose in their minds 
without any external prompting whatever. Was it not this 
school which induced Wesley to use the phrase (since a 
classical one) " the nursery of the Church " ? 
Some light is obtained from A Sermon preached in 
the Cathedral Church of Chester. February 4th, iySy, for 


the benefit of the Charity Schools in that City : and with 
a view of recommending the establishment of General 
Sunday Schools there : by Beilby, Lord Bishop of Chester. 
Chester : printed by J. Fletcher. [The Bishop was 
Dr. Beilby Porteus, installed Chester 1777, translated 
to Iyondon 1787.] 

The Bishop advocates the establishment of a 
general Sunday School, and a new day school for 
females to supplement the work already being carried 
out by the present girls' school, the Blue Coat Hospital, 
and the 120 out-scholars lately annexed to it. After 
defending Sunday Schools from the charge that educa- 
tion would unfit the poor for their laborious station in 
life, the Bishop says : — 

Thus much I thought it necessary to say on the subject of 
Sunday Schools, in order to excite a general attention here to 
that important object. I say a general attention ; because in 
one particular parish of this city a school of this sort has 
been already established, and is carried on and supported with 
a very laudable spirit. 

The following extract from one of the Chester 
newspapers evidently deals with the same movement, 
and is interesting reading. Probably Richard Rodda 
was the writer. 

Octagon, Chester, March, 8th, 1787. 

Sunday Schools. 
The Committee of the Sunday Schools, instituted at the 
Octagon in this city on the 7th January last, think themselves 
under a necessity of laying before the public a few particulars 
relative to their conduct in the above institution. From a 
deep concern for the neglected state of the children in this 
city, a few humane persons met together in the beginning of 
the present year to consult what plan they could adopt 
most likely to render some service to the rising generation. 
General Sunday Schools were what appeared most likely to 


bring about the end they had in view. For the management 
of these they drew up rules, which they laid before the Right 
Reverend the Lord Bishop of the diocese, who fully approved of 
them, and applauded the institution : the rules were then 
printed, and made public thro' the city. Schools were 
immediately opened, and a number of serious persons both 
men and women, chearfully (sic) and voluntarily engaged 
themselves to teach and train up the children, who came, in 
the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The number of 
children soon amounted to upwards of 700, and these have 
been instructed, and the whole business exactly conducted, con- 
formably to the printed rules. Whether their labour has been 
in vain, the inhabitants of this city are able to determine. To 
defray the expenses of this institution, benefactions and 
subscriptions have been generally solicited, in the public 
papers, but no personal application has yet been made. A 
few persons have voluntarily thrown in their assistance, but 
this has fallen far short of defraying the expenses of books, 
rooms, etc. 

A few weeks ago the Bishop called a meeting of the clergy 
and gentlemen of Chester, to take into consideration a plan for 
establishing Sunday Schools in the city, at which meeting a 
few of the above Committee attended, and signified to his 
Lordship and the gentlemen then present, that it was the 
earnest wish of the members of that Committee which they 
represented, that the institution should be enlarged and 
established upon the most useful and extensive plan; they 
having no end in view, but the advantage of the rising genera- 
tion ; to which his Lordship paid the highest encomiums and 
expressed his wish and design, that the concern should be 
united and general, and added that at a subsequent meeting 
such a plan as was then proposed should be converted and 
adopted ; in the meanwhile it was ordered that the inhabitants 
should be solicited for a subscription of 5s. apiece to establish 
an annual fund, for the defraying ot the expenses attending 
the institution. Some time after the above meeting another 
was held, at the Pentice, of which the Hon. Mr. Grey was 
chairman ; it was then asked by the Octagon Committee, 


whether it was the intention of the clergy and gentlemen, that 
the schools intended to be instituted by them should be united 
with those already formed, and whether the persons who had 
from principle, gratuitously laboured in the care of the schools, 
should be permitted to take any active part in the carrying 
on of the institution ? To this it was said, that they were not 
then prepared to give an answer. At a meeting held 7th inst., 
at the Exchange, Mr. Chancellor Briggs in the Chair, the 
Octagon Committee again attended, and repeated the request 
they had before made ; to which they begged the gentlemen 
would give them a plain and ingenuous answer. They 
answered, that the persons concerned in the schools already 
established, should not be permitted to any share in the 
concern of those intended to be by them established! The 
gentlemen were then asked whether they would appropriate 
any part of the monies in their hands towards providing books 
for the schools already instituted ; and were told, that many 
persons who had given them subscriptions, had contributed 
with a view to the support of the schools under the care of the 
above Committee : To this it was answered, that no part of 
the money in their hands should be so applied ! These are 
facts which are thought necessary to be submitted to the 
consideration discerning public. The above Committee, 
finding they must stand alone in that undertaking which they 
alone began, are unitedly determined to persevere, and to 
labour, by every possible means, to render service to the 
rising generation. 

Their conduct shall still be regulated by their printed 
rules. Their end in all their exertions will be, the universal 
reformation of manners, the propagation of Christian Know- 
ledge, the due observation of the Sabbath-day, and the increase 
of valuable members to church and state, to religious and civil 
society. While these are their designs, and these their 
labours, they with humble confidence look for the blessing of 
that God who has so conspicuously crowned this divine institu- 
tion, throughout the kingdom with such abundant success. 
They rest assured too they shall not want the good wishes, 
the prayers, and the assistance, of many in this city. Their 


wants are small ; £20 per annum will enable them to insrtuct 
and train up one thousand children ; and they doubt not many 
in this city will chearfully contribute to raise so inconsiderable 
a sum. Messrs. Shaw, Walker, and Sellers continue to receive 
donations, and subscriptions, and should this public solicita- 
tion fail, a personal application will soon be made to the 
inhabitants, when they will have an opportunity of expressing 
their approbation or disapprobation of this important under- 


It will be of interest to say a little more about the 
early finances of the school. In the earliest years of 
the century the collections ranged from £8 to £\2 
per annum. In 1805 a great change was made. An 
attractive and elaborate musical programme was arrang- 
ed ; two grand pianofortes were hired ; the most 
celebrated singers of the neighbourhood engaged ; and 
the popular Samuel Bradburn brought over expressly 
from Bolton on November 17th, a date fixed to meet 
his convenience. Permission was given by the Octagon 
Trustees to take a silver collection at the doors. A 
note in the old book says : — 

The persons appointed to stand at the doors to receive 
the collection at the coming into the service were — 
G. Lowe, senr., Gallery right side. 
Bro. Howie, at the same side below. 
S. Smith, Gallery left side. 
R. Phillips, same side below. To attend at \ past 5. 

There was a great crowd and a gross collection of 
£,41 7s. id., out of which, however, no less than 
^24 5s. 2d. had to be taken for expenses. And there 
were other drawbacks. An uneasy feeling was aroused 
in the minds of many Methodists that the younger 
members had been brought into undesirable association 
with worldly musicians ; and that Methodism, once 


deemed so strict in its discipline, had been brought 
before the inhabitants of Chester in an unedifying light. 
When wrong doing is successful a reprover will find it 
difficult to secure a hearing ; when wrong doing is 
unsuccessful his offices are hardly needed. It is prob- 
able that the fact of the nett financial result being 
incommensurate with the effort involved had quite as 
much to do with the modifications introduced the next 
year, as the consideration already mentioned. It may 
be noted in passing that these performances were 
contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the following 
resolution which had been passed by the Conference 
in 1800. 

Q. 14. Can anything be done to prevent, what appears 
to us a great evil, namely, bands of music and theatrical 
singers being brought into our chapels, when charity sermons 
are to be preached ? 

A. Let none in our connexion preach charity sermons, 
where such persons and such music are introduced. And let 
the stewards, trustees, and leaders, be informed that such a 
practice is offensive to the conference, who believe it has been 
hurtful to the minds of many pious people. 

In 1806 the sermon was preached by the Rev. 
Thomas Taylor from Liverpool. The service was much 
simpler in character, but in essential respects more 
effective. There were then 115 boys and 130 girls. In 
1808 the services of the well-known Dr. Thomas Coke 
were secured, and the handbill stated that there were 
115 boys and 118 girls. In 1810 there were scarcely as 
many. x 

1. The hymn paper for 1799, photographically reproduced in this book, 
and that for 1808, are in the Minute book of the St. John Street Trust. 

A member of the Wesley Historical Society has a copy of the hymn 
sheet for 1810, when the sermon was preached by Rev. John Braithwaite. The 
number of scholars was about 200. The school is then said to have been con- 
ducted for more than 26 years, which is in agreement with what is said above. 


The following statement of Sunday School collec- 

tions in the 

1 early part of the centun 

' will be read with 




£ s. d. 


• • 

Rev. Thomas Coke, LL.D. 


4 7i 


• • 

Rev. J. Bramwell 




• • 

Rev. John Braithwaite 


8 3 


• • 

The Kilhamites took our tu 




• • 

Rev. John Braithwaite 


7 7 


• • 

Rev. John Sutcliffe 


8 6 


• • 

Rev. John Braithwaite 



• • 

Rev. Edward Oakes 




• • 

Private Subscription 




• • 

Rev. James Everett 


17 6 


• • 

Rev. William Bramwell . 


16 6 


. . 

Rev. Samuel Drew 




• • 

Rev. T. H. Walker 




• • 

Rev. Robert Wood 


3 2* 


• • 

Rev. Wm. Naylor 




Rev. Theophilus Lessey . 


15 6 


• • 

Do. Do. 


2 3 


• • 

Rev. William Atherton 



• • 

Private Subscription 


2 3 

Here follow some facts which will prove of interest 
with respect to early Sunday School work. 

The Journal gives a list of Superintendents : — 
1782. Thomas Bennett ; George Lowe. 
George Walker ; John Jones. 
George Lowe ; Thomas Bowers. 
Do. Robert Lowe. 

Do. J. T. Hankey. 

Do. Joseph Jackson Phillips. 

Do. Owen Bent Jones. 

Do. William Lowe. 



i822. William Lowe ; Thomas Dean. 

1823. Thomas Dean ; Peter Williams. 
Do. Peter Williams ; William Haywood. 

1824. Do. John L,owe. 

The earliest complete list of teachers, together with 
the classes assigned to them is dated March 24th, 18 15. 
Upstairs. Below. 

First Bible Company — 

Miss Jane Lowe. 
Second do. 

Miss Roberts. 

Miss Speed. 
First Testament Company — 

Miss Jones. 

Miss M. Lowe. 
Second do. 

Miss. S. Lowe. 

Miss Bowers. 
Spelling Class — 

Miss Barrington. 
Card Class, etc. — 

Miss Hancock. 

First Bible Company — 

Robert Lowe. 
Second do. 

Joseph Janion, morning. 

Robert Parry, afternoon. 
First Testament Company — 

G. Latham. 
Second do. 

Walter Hussey. 
Third do. 

Peter Hankey. 
Spelling Class — 

Joseph Phillips. 

Thomas Lloyd. 
Reading made easy — 

William Dentith. 

Francis Teggins. 

Thomas Grey. 

The division of time proposed to be adopted in 
1824 will be read with interest by modern Sunday 
School workers : also one or two miscellaneous resolu- 

tions. — 



Singing and Prayer 



Call over Teacher's Roll 



Deliver Books 









Call in Books 



Spell and Catechise 



Mark class paper 



Dismiss •• 




In 1807 it was resolved that the children should go 
to Divine Service in the Octagon every Sunday morn- 
ing and once a quarter to St. John's Church. 

July 19th, 1815. — Resolved that greater strictness 
be observed in the school, as it respects corporeal 

Sept. 13th. — That no teacher be permitted to use a 
cain (sic !) in the school. 

October 24th, 181 5. That every scholar at entering 
in or going out of the school must make a Bow or 

In 1816 writing on the IyORD's day was discontinued 
and provision made for it on week days. 

1823. The children to be detained after the morn- 
ing service and reprimanded by the preacher if they 
have misbehaved. 


Amongst remarkable items of expenditure are : — 
Eboney Rooler, iod. Spanish Juce for the Singers, 1/1. 


In Hemingway 's Chester, in a paragraph relating to 
St. John Street Chapel, the statement is made : — 

Attached to the society is also a good brick building in 
Back Brook Street in which there is a flourishing Sunday 
School comprising not less than 320 children. The ground 
for this building and a liberal sum of money were given by an 
opulent and benevolent individual of the city, and by the 
public liberality the whole debt has now been extinguished, so 
that the school now stands without any other incumbrance 
than what arises from the purchase of books and in teaching. 

The new branch School in Back Brook Street was 
opened by the Rev. Joseph Fowler on Sunday. July 
20th, 1823. But there was work in that neighbourhood 


before that date^ for in 1822 it was resolved that the 
Bridge Street branch and the Brook Street branch 
should be united with St. John Street parent School. 
The numbers reported in 1823 were : St. John Street, 
210 ; Bridge Street, 99 ; Brook Street, 66 ; Christleton, 
55 ; Total, 430. 

On April 20th, 1828, the Bridge Street School was 
given up and the teachers brought the children to 
St. John Street prior to the commencement of the 
Boughton School. On April 27th, the Boughton 
Sunday School was opened, when there were 43 
children present in the morning and 69 in the 

Sunday School work in Handbridge calls for a 
word. It has been stated that such work was com- 
menced in Handbridge at the same time as at the 
Octagon. It is said in the old Journal to have been 
conducted " on the Rock," and that George IyOwe, senr., 
was the first Superintendent. 

In 1807 George Iyowe, junr., became the Superin- 
dent and Treasurer. 

In 1823 Thomas Moreland and Thomas Carter were 
Superintendents " in the barn in Brown Street." In 
this year Messrs. Janion, K. Hankey, and John 
Lanceley were appointed to carry out a scheme for the 
establishment of a School in Handbridge, there having 
apparently been a lapse in the work. In 1827 ground 
in the upper part of Brown Street, Handbridge, was 
purchased, the dimensions being 8 yards by 20. Thomas 
Carter was instructed to build according to the specifi- 
cation of Mr. L,atham at an estimated cost of ^153. 


George Lowe and John Williams became the Superin- 
tendents at the new school, with John Lowe as general 
secretary ; Edward Hankey as Teachers' secretary : 
and Thomas Lowe as librarian. The new building was 
transferred to the Methodist New Connexion after the 
disputes of 1830. (So Hemingway's Chester). 

It would not be edifying to dwell upon these old 
disputes, of which a fairly full account could be 
gathered from the records ; it will suffice to say that a 
great many disagreements unhappily arose among the 
Methodist Sunday School workers of the city. In 1826 
a Wesleyan Sunday School Union was formed including 
the schools at St. John Street, Bridge Street and 
Christleton, leaving the Brook Street school to the 
management of its own affairs. The disagreement came 
to a height over the matter of the annual collection in 
1830. The school at St. John Street was removed, and 
was held for a time in Harrison's Buildings, and in 
Mr. Tilston's Room over Watergate Row for a week or 
so ; then in the Upper Room on the East Side of the 
Union Hall; then, compelled to remove by the business 
requirements of the Hall proprietors, it assembled in the 
house of Mr. Lowe, 5, Bridge Street. Shortly after 
this, invitations were sent to the travelling preachers 
of Trinity Lane to make arrangements to preach the 
anniversary sermons; and almost the last entry in 
the old Journal records an invitation to Mr. Seals, New 
Connexion Minister, to preach a sermon for the 
clothing society at the Handbridge school. The " old 
body " lost at this time many useful members and 
officers ; and the St. John Street school together with 
the new school in Handbridge were transferred to the 


New Connexion. What became of the Boughton 
School does not appear. * 

Library Records. 

The oldest record of a library bears date August 
22nd, 1785. It does not appear whether this was a 
school library or not ; probably not. The Committee 
for 1786 included : George Lowe, Richard Clithro, 
James Forest, Moses Ithill, Matthias Horner, Daniel 
Chesters, Samuel Smith, John Williams ; with James 
Parry as librarian, assisted by Thomas Aven and 
Thomas Rathbone. The fortunes of this library cannot 
be traced. 

The library which was strictly connected with the 
Sunday School was instituted in 1817, extended in 1822, 
restored in 1825 ; William Lowe, John Lowe, Edward 
Hankey, George Lloyd, and Samuel Meacock being 
among the earlier officials. 

In March, 1830, a resolution was passed empower- 
ing the officers and Committee to remove the cupboard 
with its contents, should they think fit, " owing to the 
unsettled state of the schools." On the 19th of that 
month it was resolved that the books and case be 
removed to Mr. T. Moreland's until an eligible situation 
could be procured for the same. On the 7th April was 
determined to remove the books and case to No. 6, 
Bridge Street Row. A little later, March, 1831, it 
was resolved that " this library be denominated the 
Wesleyan Sunday School Teachers' Library, Goss 

1. Rev. T. Allin, in Letters to the Rev. John Maclean, containing an exposition 
of the Government of Wesleyan Methodism with the practical illustrations of its effects, 
etc., znd Edn., 1835, quotes a long and interesting letter written to Dr. Townley 
about these Chester disputes. See also Stokoe : Life of Rev. Andrew Lynn, p. 223, 


Street, Chester." "That the books kept at Trinity 
Street Chapel may be united to the late St. John Street 
Library, and that the whole of the books and cupboard 
be removed to Goss Street." This library at Goss 
Street is something of a mystery. A catalogue was 
issued in 1833. The designation Wesley an Sunday 
School Teachers' Library is still maintained. But the 
proprietors are stated to be the teachers of Goss Street 
and Brown Street Sabbath Schools (fulfilling certain 
conditions) and the preachers of Trinity Street Society, 
Methodist New Connexion, were ex-officio members of 
the Committee, and the Wesleyan ministers do not 
appear at all. On the whole it may be concluded that 
the library followed the schools. 

Methodist Day School work in Chester. 

As the Methodists of Chester were early in the 
field with their Sunday School work so they were 
not slow to undertake secular education when oppor- 
tunity afforded. It was as early as March 20th, 1839, 
that it was resolved " that a Day School be established 
in connexion with the Sunday School, to be under the 
control of the Sunday School Committee." 

On March 26th, 1839, A Jr. and Mrs. Serjeant, of 
London, were engaged as teachers at £80 per annum, 
the work to commence on July 1st. This date was 
subsequently changed to April 22nd to suit the con- 
venience of Mr Serjeant. The boys were to be taught 
in Brook Street, and the girls in St. John Street. 

A curious old minute of the early days contains a — 

Query. — Did Mr. Serjeant on the 4th inst. ( 1841) 

give a holiday to the children, and, if so, by whose authority "t 



Ans. — In consequence of the teetotallers perambulating the 
town, Mr. Serjeant had so few children he did not see the 
propriety of keeping the school open. 

Mr. George Cross succeeded Mr. Serjeant, January, 
1869. He died in April, 1877, and was succeeded on 
June 1st, i^y^hy Mr. A. W. Lucas, F.G.S., who has 
remained in the position ever since. The school was 
reorganized as a Higher Grade School in April, 1886. 
The pupils of the Higher Grade School have gained 28 
scholarships at the King's School, 46 at the Technical 
Day School, 8 at the School of Science and Art, and 2 
Scholarships at the Queen's School. 

On the girl's side Mrs. Serjeant was succeeded on 
June 25th, 1840, by Miss Boulton. There is no record 
of the other ladies who have taught in the school 
until we come down to the appointment of the present 
head-mistress, Miss Rosterne, and the head of the 
Junior School Miss Henri. x 

The day schools for boys and girls are now conduct- 
ed in premises in St. John Street which were erected 
in 1845. These premises are situated on the north side 
of the houses which were once occupied by the preachers. 

The Sunday School in connection with St. John 
Street Chapel is now carried on in the beautiful modern 
and commodious building which appears on the left in 
the picture of the exterior of the Chapel. 

1. The Journal referred to at the beginning of this Chapter is at the Methodist 
New Connexion Chapel in Pepper Street, along with several other most interesting 
School and Library records which have all been consulted. Walker's MS. has 
also been used ; and several volumes of Minute Books in the hands of Wesleyan 
officials. The extract from Bishop Porteus was kindly furnished by the Rev. T. E. 


CDc erection of St. 3obn Street CDapel, 
1810 onwards. 

1810—11 : John Braithwaite ; Isaac Muff. 
1812 : John Braithwaite ; William Hill. 
1813 : John Doncaster ; do. 

1814 : Thomas Pinder ; Edward Oakes. 

IN the year 1810 it was evident, despite the money 
expended upon the Octagon premises some four years 
previously, that a new chapel was an imperative 
necessity, and the Methodists bravely made up their 
minds to undertake this serious responsibility. A large 
plot of ground, with two houses on the front of it, was 
on sale at a reasonable price It was situated on the 
north side of Foregate Street, a few yards to the west of 
Qneen Street. After some delay Messrs. George 1/nve 
and Samuel Williams, with the consent of the Quarterly 
Meeting, purchased the property from the proprietor, 
Daniel Aldersey, Esq., for ^i,6oo, the vendor at his 
own expense being engaged to provide the title deeds. 

There were several objections to this site. Firstly, 
it would be necessary to recess the building consider- 
ably. For twenty-five yards from the street the plot of 


land was only fifteen yards wide : at the back it opened 
into an orchard which gave plenty of room. Secondly, 
it was feared that numerous tanpits in an adjoining yard, 
occupied by Mr. John Bradford, would prove a great 
nuisance. Thirdly, the development of this site would 
involve the removal of a capital house occupied by 
Colonel Bonnor. 

Mr. Walker, commenting on the first objection, 
tells us he would not like a chapel hidden away, but at 
the same time it is well to have a Methodist chapel 
reasonably recessed from the street, "to avoid the noise of 
the traffic ; and also to prevent the enthusiastic warmth 
which so frequently manifests itself in the private 
meetings of the Society from attracting the notice and 
possibly the disturbance of passengers." One wonders 
how many years it is since such a consideration was 
taken into account by a building committee ! 
v In deference to the wishes of many of the Society 
it was resolved not to build the chapel until greater 
unanimity should prevail. After a little time had been 
spent in fruitless inquiries the following advertisement 
appeared in the local press. 

Valuable Freehold Property in Chester. 
To be sold by auction. 
At the Blossoms Inn, in the city of Chester, on Thursday, 
the thirty-first day of January instant, at six o'clock in the 
evening, subject to conditions then to be produced, the follow- 
ing premises in one lot. All that elegant and capital Mansion 
House, with a coach house and two stables adjoining, situate 
in Saint John Street, in the said city of Chester, and late the 
residence of Alexander Eaton, Esquire, deceased. 

This house is in every respect fit for the residence of a 
genteel family, and has every possible convenience to render it 
desirable. — It consists on the ground floor, of two large 


parlours to the front, one twenty- two feet by eighteen, the 
other twenty-four feet by eighteen, a study, a breakfast 
parlour, a butler's pantry, and servants' hall, two excellent 
kitchens, dry cellars, etc. — There is a very good garden, and a 
spacious court, and two rooms or offices adjoining the City 
Walls ; the out-offices are excellent and very convenient. 
There is on the second floor a drawing room, twenty-four feet 
by eighteen, and a lodging room adjoining eighteen feet 
square, with a dressing room attached, and nine other lodging 

A dwelling house adjoining the above, in the possession of 
Mr. Robert Fearnall. 

A dwelling house adjoining the stables, in the possession 
of Mr. John Saunders, and a cottage adjoining that in the 
possession of William Jones. The above premises are in 
depth one hundred and nineteen feet, and in breadth one 
hundred and fifty feet. 

The tenants will shew the premises (except the large 
house) and tickets may be had to see that, and further particu- 
lars at the office of Mr. Humphreys, Solicitor, Chester, or 
Mr. Smith, Warrington. 1 

A few of the building committee attended the sale ; 
the property was however bought in by the proprietor 
for ^2,700. On the following day, February 1st, 1811, 
it was purchased for the committee by John Fletcher, 
Hsq., for ^2,500, saving by the private contract the 
auction duty. This step did not at the first commend 
itself to all the Society, for many preferred the site 
already acquired in Foregate Street. After much dis- 
cussion the advocates of the new site prevailed, and at 
a meeting held on February 4th, at the house of Mr. 
Samuel Williams, L,inendraper, it was unanimously 
resolved to commence operations in St. John Street 
without further delay. 

1. Chester Chronicle, January 25th, 1811. 


At the same meeting it was resolved to offer the 
Foregate Street property for sale. The result was very 
satisfactory ; upon the morning of the day appointed 
it was sold to Mr. John Bradford, the occupier of the 
adjoining tanyard, for ^"1,600. The Trustees, therefore, 
got out of the transaction without losing anything 
except what was consumed by interest, legal expenses, 
and advertising. The resolutions passed at the meeting 
referred to above, were signed by * George Lowe, Esq. ; 
* George Walker, Wine Merchant ; * Samuel Williams, 
Linen Draper ; Thomas Shone, Gentleman ; * Henry 
Bowers, Esq. ; Robert Shearing, Druggist ; * Samuel 
Beckett, Waggoner ; David Lewis, Linen Draper ; 
Robert Parry, Currier. Those whose names are marked 
with an asterisk were constituted a building committee ; 
George Lowe was appointed Treasurer; and George 
Walker, Secretary. 

It is now well that the important site acquired on 
the west side of St. John Street should be more fully 
described, together with the operations contemplated 
by the purchasers. At the north end, i.e., nearest to 
the Eastgate, was the house occupied by Mr. Robert 
Fearnall, behind which were two rooms or offices 
adjoining the walls and opening on to the same by a 
private way. Southward from Mr. Fearnall's house 
was a passage, three feet wide, communicating with 
the two rooms aforesaid. It was determined to retain 
this house as a residence for the superintendent 
preacher, and to convert the premises behind into a 
stable for the preacher's horse, reserving a right of 
road from the street to the stable and the back of the 
preacher's house. Beyond the passage was situated the 


large house, extending backwards with its offices right 
up to the walls. This it was determined to offer for 
sale. Next to the large house was another passage, 
three feet wide, leading to the garden behind the 
dwelling house (Saunders), cottage (Jones), two stables 
and coach house. It was proposed to erect the Chapel 
upon the plot of land occupied by these last mentioned 
properties. This ended the frontage of the site ac- 
quired by the Trustees. Their purchase, however, 
included at its southern extremity, a vacant piece of 
land about thirty feet square, adjoining the walls. 
Between this and the street were six cottages owned 
by one Tyrer, a shoemaker. They were occupied by his 
tenants and brought in about forty pounds a year. He 
would not part with them under ^1,000, at which 
price the Trustees declined to purchase. On this plot, 
notwithstanding its want of frontage to the street, the 
Trustees proposed to erect a school for the instruction 
of poor children on the Lord's day. By great 
exertions on the part of the committee, who deemed 
no sacrifice of time and private business too great to 
be made if only they could expedite the all-important 
work, the tenants of the doomed properties were 
suitably provided for elsewhere and removed before 
their notices expired. Mr. Thomas I^unt bought the 
materials, to be taken down within fourteen days at 
his own expense, for ^95. The Trustees were most 
fortunate in disposing of the large house. It was 
purchased by Mrs. Slaughter of Eccleston on April 22nd, 
for ^1,200; it being agreed that the Chapel should 
not be built within nine feet of the southern wall of her 
house. The first secretary took an immense pains to 


describe everything fully, and in the following passage 
a clearer idea of 'the original condition of the site will 
be given to those familiar with the modern St. John 
Street, than in anything mentioned up to this point : — 

The right of private road on to the City Walls had all 
along been considered of considerable advantage to the 
concern, as it would prove of great convenience to the congre- 
gations regularly attending the chapel to have a road so near 
to it from the Walls, and also be an inducement to strangers 
passing in the time of service to descend down to the chapel, 
but it happened that the flight from the Walls was in that part 
of the property furthest from the intended building, descending 
through the rooms or offices adjoining to the Walls, behind 
the first dwelling house on the northern end of the property ; 
so that the large house would stand between the stairs 
from the Walls and the chapel, persons going that way would 
have, after descending the steps, to go through the passage 
which ran between the first house on the northern end, and 
the large house, away into the street, then turning upon the 
right come upon the chapel, after passing by the front of the 
large house. The stairs going through the offices to the Walls, 
it was also found would interfere with the design of the 
committee to convert those offices into a stable for the prea- 
cher's horse, it was therefore resolved to petition the body 
corporate of the City to give to the committee permission to 
open another road from the Walls, in a part of the property 
where the congregation might descend directly down to the 
chapel, and which would also open a pleasant and convenient 
passage for the public, from the Walls into the street, between 
the chapel and the large house, through the passage of nine 
feet wide which ran between them, proposing to the body 
corporate, the intention of the Committee to make up the road 
they then had through the offices, if permission might be had 
to open the new one. 

The request was granted, and the Town Clerk 
recommended the Trustees to retain their right over 


the road by erecting a gate which should occasionally 
be closed to the public. In 1898 a fatal fall from the 
steps led the Trustees to lock the door at the head of 
the stairway from the Walls. 

The architect of the Chapel was Mr. Thomas 
Harrison, architect of the County Goal, and of the 
beautiful Grosvenor Bridge spanning the river Dee. 
Mr. Harrison only gave the plan, which fact will 
account for the smallness of the fee recorded in the 
accounts. The specifications and sections were drawn 
up by Mr. B. Gommer, Architect, of Ruabon. 

Mr. Walker's record contains the full text of the 
specifications for the different kinds of work required 
upon the building. These specifications are too lengthy 
for quotation, though they might be of great interest to 
persons expert in building technicalities. 

The following account of the expenditure of the 
Trustees is arrived at by bringing together the details 
given by the Secretary in his book and the Treasurer 
in his. 

The gross sum paid for the property was ,£2501 15s. 
(including interest). ^1206 15s. was received for the 
large house ; and ^95 for materials. The net cost of 
the land and house was therefore ^1200 ; the proportion 
for the house retained being put down at ^400. In 
addition to the cost of erecting the Chapel, ^59 5s. was 
expended upon the house, and a school was provided 
at ;£ 2 57 9 s - iod. 

Brick Work. — The tenders were: Thomas Lunt, .£550; 
William Boden, £455. The latter was accepted, and in the 
Treasurer's book a payment 01^508 14s. gd. is recorded. 

Mason's Work. — The contract was let on May 6th to Mr. 
Wm. Cole at £400. It was provided in the contract that 


payment should be made for any greater depth of foundation 
necessary beyond that assigned in the specifications. Rock or 
strong marl was found in front at about four feet. At the 
back part there was a long and tedious job ; it was found 
necessary to go down seventeen or eighteen feet. A bed of 
earth covering nearly all the site to the depth of three feet 
had previously been removed. Mr. Cole began to sink the 
foundations on May 22nd. In the Treasurer's book it is 
recorded that he was paid £830 6s. iod. This is explained by 
the consideration just mentioned ; and also by the fact that 
he was remunerated for important services rendered throughout 
the operations, as elsewhere mentioned. 

TheCarpentery and Joiners' Work. — The sections, working 
plans, and specifications were returned by several different 
persons desirous of tendering, with the remark that they were 
so complex, defective and incorrect that no proper estimate 
could be drawn from them. Mr. Gommer being in town within 
a few days met the parties and promised to send a proper 
number of working plans, and to draw out new and clear 
specifications. But his engagement with Sir Watkin Williams 
Wynne at Wynnstay occupied so much of his time and 
attention, that the Committee feeling themselves in danger of 
very serious delay, requested Mr. Gommer to give them up the 
plans. He complied in a very handsome manner. They 
were handed over to Mr. William Cole, who had taken up the 
masonry contract, but were not completed by him till July 2nd. 
Mr. Cole was further engaged as clerk of the works, and the 
Committee agreed to pay him £84, which was to cover all his 
charges for drawing out the plans and making the specifica- 
tions. Tenders in this department were received from Mr. 
Cole himself at ,£2250 ; and from Messrs. Harrison and 
Bowden (Boden) at £1940. Some curious particulars are 
recorded in this matter. Before the latter firm were aware of 
the result of the tenders received, they offered to take £40 off 
their estimate, having heard of a reduction in the price of 
timber. This was allowed, and, their tender being the lowest 
even in its original form, was accepted. There was however a 
further alteration. The firm proved to the satisfaction of the 


Committee that they had accidently omitted to include the 
cost of the pulpit in their estimate. This they anticipated 
would involve them in an additional expenditure of ^39. 
They threw themselves upon the consideration of the Com- 
mittee, and the contract was finally settled at _£ig20. A bond 
was executed by the parties on July 27th, by which the 
contractors engaged under the penalty of ^2000 to complete 
the whole of the joinery or carpentery work on or before the 
12th day of August, 1812. The firm ultimately received from 
the Treasurer ,£2482 us. 4d. 

Ironwork. — Tenders were received as follows: Harrison 
and Pearson (amount not mentioned) ; Thomas Mosley Bennett, 
£qi\ Cole, Whittle and Co., ^82 ns. 6d. (accepted). The 
Treasurer paid the last mentioned firm ,£123 5s. 2d. 

Slating and Plaistering. — John Chesters, £283 19s. 4d.; 
Thomas Boden, ,£250; Wm. Hickson, £246 ; Richard Baker, 
^245 10s. ; William Davies, ^139. 

The minute book says, "This last as the lowest estimate 
was of course taken, and instructions forthwith given to 
prepare a bond, obligatory on the contractor and his recog- 
nisances, for the performance of the contract." But there 
was a hitch somewhere, for the Treasurer's book records 
^268 16s. 2d. paid to William Hickson, Plaisterer. There 
was also an expenditure on Slates, including duty and freight, 
of £80 7s. gd. 

Plumber's Work. — The tender of Mr. Porter at ^30 per 
ton of lead used was accepted. He received payment of 
£145 3s. 6d. 

Other items of expenditure were as follows : John Garner, 
Attorney, ^96 gs. 6d. ; Samuel Humpreys, do., £33 os. iod. ; 
Mr. Harrison, Architect, ^20 ; Kirkham and France, Painters, 
£50 os. 7d. ; John Williams, Glazier, ^g 15s. od. ; Daniel 
Dodd, Pavier, ^"38 3s. gd. ; Robert Jones, Whitesmith, 
£8 gs. 4d. ; John Alderson, for lamps, ;£ig 17s. 8d. ; Henry 
Bowers, for street lamps, etc., £5 15s. 2d.; Mary Gardner, 
for table, ,£g gs. od. ; P M. and S. Williams, for green cloth, 
£60 17s. iod. ; John Powell, for lining seats, £37 16s. 7d. 


Thomas Jones, Cutler, £15 17s. 5d. ; George Lewis, 
Birmingham, for hinges, etc., ^"13 2s. 8d. ; Samuel Beard, 
for brass work, £87 us. gd. 
The accounts, when finally made up in 1814, worked 
out as follows : — £ s. d. 


House alterations 
Interest on money 
Erection of the Chapel 



Subscription list 

Collections taken at the opening 
services, after deducting 21/- for 
base silver, and ^11 2s. for prea- 
chers' travelling expenses 

Balance from the Octagon concern 

Balance due to the Treasurer 



.. 257 








.. 5144 



• • £6865 






• • 5070 

. . 1288 



147 9 

338 10 
21 13 




. . ^6865 19 10 

The courageous spirit of the Circuit authorities at 
the time when the new Chapel was erected further 
appears from the fact that in 181 2 they raised a sum of 
over £110 for the purpose of improving the ministers' 

The Methodists of Chester experienced something 
both of the burdens and privileges of the connexional 
principle of their Church. 








In 1800, the Conference ordered a collection to be 
made throughout the Manchester, Stockport, Bolton, 
Macclesfield, Chester, Burslem, and Northwich Circuits 
for a Chapel at Ashton ; in 1803, throughout the 
Chester District, for Shrewsbury ; in 1807, in Congleton, 
Chester, and Northwich, for Congleton. Returning to 
the old account book, it appears the burdened trustees 
of St. John Street began to look to this hopeful source 
of income. 

On July 19th, 1814, 1 id. was paid for the postage of 
a letter "to President of ye Conference at Bristol beggg 
for releif for ye Chapel." On Nov 24th, 10/- was paid 
to Mr. Monk for printing 100 circular letters addressed 
to the preachers at the last Conference, requesting their 
influence to obtain pecuniary relief for the Chapel. 

In response to this appeal, the Conference passed 
the following resolution : — 

On account of the very peculiar and distressing circum- 
stances of the Chapels in Chester the Conference 
is under the necessity of consenting that extraordinary 
applications may be made for their relief, according to the 
following plan : For Chester ; in the Birmingham, Shrewsbury, 
Macclesfield, Liverpool, and Manchester Districts. 

The results of this decision appear in the Chapel 

Deer. 5th, 1814, to a bill received from Revd. Thos. Pinder, 
Superintendent of Ye Chester Circuit, in part of the Collection 
he made in Manchester, in pursuance of grant of the last 
Conference, held in Bristol, for relief of the Chester Chapel by 
collections to be made in various other Circuits, £23. A 
further sum the next day, £ig. 

Deer. 19th, from Manchester and Altringham, ,£30. 

1815, Jany., Manchester and Warrington, £41. North- 
wich, £31 us. 3d. Manchester and Bury, £43. 


March, Haslinden and Bury, £y. Stockport, £ig. New 
Mills and Ash^ton, £18. 

April, Liverpool, £80. Oswestry, £10 18s. Burslem and 
Stafford, £52 5s. Macclesfield and Buxton, £73 18s. 2jd. 
Wigan and Leigh, ^22 18s. Prescot and Ormskirk, £20 15s. 
Congleton, Leek, Dudley, Bromwich, Wolverhampton and 
Shrewsbury, £64. 

May, Newcastle, Birmingham and Stourport, ;£ioo 6s. 
Oldham, £12. Wrexham, £26 us. yd. 

June, Coventry, Hinckley and Redditch, £12. Preston, 
£l 12s. Hereford, Ledbury and Kington, £48 4s. 6d. 
Lancaster, £4. gs. 6d. Blackburn, £23 12s. 6d. 

Octr., Wednesbury and Rochdale, £"41 10s. 

Many items occur to shew that this method of 
raising money involved great expense. 

Aug. 15th, 1815, Paid Horse Hire for Messrs. Pinder and 
Oakes during the time Mr. Roberts had the Circuit Horse in 
Herefordshire, £2 14s. od. July 24th, Expenses attending 
the collections in the Preston, Garstang, Lancaster, and 
Blackburn Circuits for Mr. George Walker and self being at 
Inns the chief part of the time, £\\ 15s. 5d. Horse Hire for 
self on account of above collections, £2 12s. od. 

There are also several entries of sums paid for 
sending preachers to do Mr. Pinder's work within the 
Circuit, while he was gathering funds elsewhere. 

The spacious sanctuary which at length rewarded 
the efforts of the brave and diligent men whose 
schemes have been expounded in the preceding pages, 
still stands substantially unchanged so far as the main 
structure is concerned, though the surroundings have 
altered very much for the better. The main dimensions 
were : outside length 84 feet ; outside width 55 feet. 
The stairs of the pulpit descended at the first into the 
vestry, now they descend into the chapel. The chapel 


was at the beginning lighted by 84 candles, exclusive 
of those in the singing gallery, stair cases, and under 
the gallery, viz. : 36 in 6 chandeliers in the gallery, 20 in 
the gallery front seats, 4 in the pulpit, and 24 in a large 
chandelier in the body of the chapel. 
Janion, writing in 1833, says: — 

This noble and beautiful house, in which the descendants 
of the ancient Chester Methodists, together with many of 
their fellow-citizens, now worship the Most High, has a semi- 
circular front to St. John Street, three entrances, a gallery 
on three sides, and an orchestra for the singers. The con- 
gregation is numerous and respectable. The financial affairs 
of the chapel, which were in a state of considerable 
embarrassment some years ago, are now gradually improving. 
The Society at present numbers 361 members ; and in the 
Sunday School at the S. W angle of the chapel, together 
with the branch school in Back Brook Street, about 500 
children are receiving gratuitous religious instruction on the 
Lord's day. 
Mr. W- E. Whitehouse, of Birmingham, speaking 
of the traditions current in his young days says : — 

It was thought to be a very beautiful and perfect con- 
struction, and the Chtster Methodists are very proud of it. 
Its front to St. John Street is semicircular, and I have heard 
some of the old men and women speak in awe-struck tones of 
the immense cost of the bricks specially moulded for this 
The opening services were thus advertised in the 
papers: — 

Methodist New Chapel, St. John's Street, Chester. 
This Chapel will be opened on Sunday, the 4th day of 
October : the first service will commence at precisely half past ten 
in the morning, the introductory part of which will be performed, 
by the Rev. John Braithwaite, Superintendant of the 
Circuit, and the sermon will afterwards be preached by the 
Rev. Samuel Bradbcrn from Liverpool. The second service 


will be held at half past two in the afternoon, and the sermon 
will be preacjied by the Rev. John Gaultier (sic) from Liver- 
pool. The third service will beheld at six in the evening, and 
the sermon will be preached by the Rev. Jabez Bunting from 

In order to aid the subscriptions, and also to accommodate 
the friends of this interest with room, it is intended that every 
person shall give Silver as they enter the Doors, at each of 
the services. The sums thus raised will be added to the 
Collections, which will be made immediately after every 
Sermon. A few pews not yet engaged, may be taken, on 
application to George Walker. 1 
The following were Mr. Braithwaite's introductory 
remarks : — 

With desire have many of us desired to see this day. We 
see it and are glad. We behold this neat and elegant structure, 
with very different sensations from those which arose in the 
breasts of the ancient fathers, among the Jews, when the foun- 
dation of the second temple was laid. Ezra informs us, that 
such as had seen the first temple in its pristine glory, wept 
aloud. And the prophet Haggai asks, Who is left among yon 
that saw this house in her first glory ? And how do you see it 
now ? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing ? 
Some of our aged brethren present, knew our first house in 
Chester, and God has spared them to witness the erection 
and completion of this. If they institute a comparison betwixt 
the two, and consider the contrast, they may be disposed to 
weep indeed, and to weep aloud ; but I am sure the tears will 
be tears of joy, and they will be ready to exclaim, with 
pleasure and admiration, What hath God wrought ? For the 
glory of this latter house far exceeds that of the former. If we 
only consider the extent of the building, the excellence of its 
accommodations, the convenience of its situation, and the 
whole of its admirable workmanship, which does equal credit 
to him who designed and to those who executed it, we shall 
be compelled to give it our decided preference. 

1. Chester Courant, Tuesday, September 29th, 1812. 


But I hope it will have a superior glory in another and 
more exalted sense. I hope it will have the glory of being the 
birth-place to many precious souls ; and that where one soul 
was converted to God in the other chapel, scores will be 
converted in this ; and that it shall be said, at no distant 
period, of this man and that woman, that they were born here ! 
I am sure I speak the sentiments of many worthy citizens of 
Chester, who have subscribed nobly to this building, when I 
say, that this was the great object which influenced their 
conduct at the commencement of this undertaking, and which 
they have all along kept steadily in view — the promotion of 
the glory of God in the salvation of sinners. 

It was not in hostility to the Establishment, nor in 
opposition to Christians of any other denomination, that this 
work was begun, and is now completed. The Lord God of 
Gods, he knoweth, and Israel, he shall know, if it be in 
rebellion or transgression against the Lord that we have built 
us an altar. It was rather with a view to promote the best 
interests of our fellow-creatures, and to enlarge the Redeemer's 
kingdom in this city. When I look back upon the events of 
the two last years, my mind is filled with the mingled emotions 
of wonder and delight, and I cannot help exclaiming, in the 
animated and exulting language of the Psalmist, The Lord 
hath done great things for us wherefore we are glad. 

It has pleased God greatly to enlarge our borders as a 
Christian Society : our numbers are much increased, and our 
congregations doubled. For a time we were cooped up in a 
place which was much too strait for us, and which has fre- 
quently been so crowded as to threaten to bury us in its ruins. 
Many durst not come on this very account. Necessity, 
therefore, drove us to look out for a new situation, and we 
were compelled to build; and I gladly take this opportunity 
of saying, that many of you have afforded us the most liberal 
assistance. But I shall not anticipate what my respected 
brethren will doubtless say on this occasion. 

I have only to add, that two of our ministers, Messrs. 
Bradburn and Gaulter, who stand high in our Connexion, and 
whom this city had the honour of sending out, will conduct 
the further services of this forenoon and afternoon ; and our 
worthy brother Bunting [the Rev. Jabez Bunting, then 
stationed in Halifax], who stands equally high in the estima- 
tion of his brethren, will preach in the evening. May the 
great Head of the Universal Church crown their united 
labours with success ; and may the luminous cloud of the 
Almighty's special favour and protection ever rest upon this 
place, and upon the congregation here assembled! Amen ! 


At the close of the morning service a very pathetic 
incident took place. 

The late Rev. John Bowers, who was present, used to 
relate the following touching story: — When Bradburn came 
out of the pulpit into the vestry, he saw the old shoemaker 
with whom he had served his apprenticeship nearly fifty years 
before. His name was Peter Haslam ; but Bradburn had been 
in the habit of calling him " Old Pe." He was deaf, blind, 
and poor, and of course greatly altered ; and when Bradburn 
recognised him, he was much affected, and taking one of the 
old man's hands between his two, he said, as the tears 
streamed down his face, " Is this my old master? Poor old Pe ! 
Poor old Pe! my heart bleeds for thee, Poor old Pe!" He 
then gave him all the money he had in his pocket ; and at the 
next Conference, after making a moving speech about his old 
master, he stood with his hat at the door of the Conference 
chapel when the preachers retired, and made a collection for 
"Poor old Pe." On account of his deafness, old Peter 
generally occupied a seat behind the preacher in the pulpit of 
the old Octagon Chapel during divine service. Bradburn 
seldom visited Chester, and it is assigned as a reason, that 
when he did go, he was so sympathizing and generous towards 
his relatives and friends, that he always left with a light purse. 
At the opening of the new Chapel, he met with his old friend, 
George Lowe, whose kindness he had so often proved in his 
youthful days. He said, " Mr. Lowe, you gave me my first 
black coat." The old gentleman responded, " Do not mention 
it, Mr. Bradburn, I was the obliged person." x 

From a pamphlet (kindly lent by Mr. George 
F. Adams), printed by J. Fletcher, for the opening 
service, it appears that the following hymns were 
used : — 

Morning — I. Lo ! God is here! let us adore ! 

2. Exalt the King of Kings. 

3. Lord of hosts, how lovely fair, etc. 
Afternoon — 1. How pleasant, how divinely fair, etc. 

2. In sweet exalted strains. 

3. Come Saviour, and our souls inspire. 
Evening — 1. How did my heart rejoice to hear, etc. 

2. And will the great Eternal God. 

3. Now, Lord, the heavenly seed is sown. 

1. T. W Blanshard: Life of Samuel Bradburn, 1871. 


Rev. John Braithwaite, the younger son of an 
officer of excise, was born September 29th, 1770, at 
Parton, near Whitehaven. Intended for the Church, he 
received a good education, but coming under the 
influence of Methodism, he joined its ministerial 
brotherhood, of which he was an honoured member for 
many years. His wife, through whom he possessed 
considerable property in Whitehaven, died in Chester, 
January 2nd, 181 1, at the early age of 39. 

Writing from the Sheffield Conference, August 10th, 
181 1, he says : — 

We have had a good work in Chester. At least one 
hundred have been added to the Society in the Circuit, sixty 
of whom are in the City. Our large Chapel is going forward 
fast, and we have got subscriptions in Chester alone to the 
amount of £1000. A gentleman, who was lately Sheriff, and 
who bids fair to be Mayor, has been recently brought to God, 
and has just begun to preach. Multitudes flock to hear him. 
He came to the Conference last Saturday, and has been with 
me ever since. Blessed be God for our encouraging prospects ! 
May we cheerfully spend and be spent in the service of our 
divine Master ! 

Mr. Henry Bowers wrote the following letter to 
Mr. Braithwaite's biographer : — 

To Mr. Robert Dickinson. 

Chester, January 22nd, 1824. 
Dear Sir. 

Our late worthy friend, Mr. Braithwaite, came to Chester 
a few months after my conversion to God. When he began 
his labours in this city, the religious worship of God, by the 
Methodists, was carried on in the Octagon Chapel, and the 
Society were in a more prosperous state than they had been 
for some years ; yet this city being the head of a Diocese, 
much Church prejudice existed; and, I believe, in the Con- 
ference, a more suitable preacher could not have been selected 
to meet the wishes of the Chester people and find acceptance 
among them. His ministry soon became abundantly owned 
and blessed of God ; his amiable disposition and gentlemanly 
manners gained him the esteem of many, who before despised 
the Methodists. The chapel became too small for the 
congregation that attended ; and the consequence was, we 


commenced a subscription for a new one. I had the pleasure 
of accompanying Mr. B. in this labour of love; and having 
newly left the world, I had an opportunity of introducing him 
to many who had never been inside a Methodist chapel. 
There was something so pleasing in his address, that we 
succeded in almost every case where we solicited. Several 
persons, strongly attached to the Church, subscribed as much 
as from five to ten pounds, and many one guinea each. In 
all, including our own friends, we raised upwards of twelve 
hundred pounds ; but having to build when materials were at 
the highest, we have had many unavoidable difficulties to 
contend with. 

He had been two years with us before the chapel was 
finished, and during that period had many seals to his 
ministry. My dear partner through his instrumentality was 
brought to God, and held him in the highest estimation. 
Indeed, he was beloved by all, more, perhaps, than any of his 
brethren who preceded him ; his piety was deep and evidenced 
itself in all his communications with the people of God. No 
wonder, then, they should wish him to stay another year. To 
effect this, a petition was addressed to Conference ; and as, 
at that time, three years' stations were discouraged, Mr. 
Walker and myself were deputed to go to Leeds, in order to 
effect so desirable an object. The day after we arrived there, 
a three years' station was rejected : However, we made all 
the interest we could to accomplish our purpose, and to the 
surprise of many we succeeded by a vote of Conference in our 
favour. We never had reason to repent of the trouble we took 
for his third year was, in my opinion, his best year: The 
large new chapel on a Sunday evening was crowded to excess. 
Mr. Hill, who was appointed with him that year was a 
very acceptable preacher, and assisted him in keeping up 
the congregations. He preached his farewell sermon on a 
Monday evening ; and although we have not usually large 
congregations on week nights, yet, on that occasion, the chapel 
could not contain all that wished to hear him ; the aisles were 
crowded, yet many went away. This respect shewn to him 
was not confined to the Methodists, but included Churchmen, 
and Dissenters of all descriptions. 

Yours respectfully, 


i. The Life of the Rev. John Braithwaite, by Robert Dickinson, London, 
1825, is a most interesting book. It contains many particulars about Mr. Braith- 
waite's work in Chester for which no room has been found above. He was greatly 
interested in the public life of the city, and his ready pen was often used in writing 
political verses. 


The accounts of the Trustees were kept in one 
solidly bound volume from 1812 to 1891. The interest 
of the book is greatly enhanced by the fact that the 
autographs of most Superintendents, Trustees and 
Chapel Stewards from the beginning are to be found 
in its pages. What memories do its pages recall and 
what thoughts are stirred as the faded characters are 
perused ! Here appear the names of many of the most 
distinguished Methodist preachers of the era as con- 
ductors of the Anniversary services. 

Here one may see the firm signature of an early 
Trustee getting less firm, and then shaking more and 
more with each year added to the veteran's life, until the 
year comes when his name is written on earth no more. 
The advance of Science is revealed as we pass from the 
large charges for oil at the beginning to the regularly 
recurring gas bill in the later pages. The progress of 
Methodism and the effectual organization of the 
Connexional principle may be traced: at first we see 
the Superintendent and his officers travelling far and 
wide to collect for the new Chapel ; in later years we 
read of a loan from the Chapel Committee and later 
still of regular subscriptions to the Chapel Fund 
and other Connexional institutions. A great feature 
has always been made of the Trust Anniversary. The 
first was held on November 2nd, 1814. The old 
way of making arrangements appears from the 
entry: 6s. Coach, 10s. 6d. Expenses for Mr. Pinder's 
journey to Liverpool to invite the preachers. No 
halfpenny cards or sixpenny telegrams then ! The 
Rev. Henry Moore and the Rev. Edward Hare, both 
of Liverpool, were the preachers and the collections 


amounted to ^53 ps. 2d. At the fourth Anniversary the 
Rev. Robert Newton was the preacher, and the collec- 
tions realized ^"98 10s. 

Among the higher figures may be recorded ; 1834, 
^104 8s. 6d. (Rev. K. Walker). 

The Seat Rents from the beginning till 1835 were 
recorded in a very strong and beautifully printed book. 
The entries are made with wonderful accuracy and 
neatness. The work must have been a labour of love. 
An examination of this register shows that the Seat 
Rents have been from the first a large source of income. 
The number of sittings offered was 612, the number 
actually let, 455, and the maximum annual rent possible 
was £311. The amounts received for the first four 
quarters were as follows : — 

1812, Deer., £56 12s. 6d. 1813, Mch., £52 10s. od. 

1813, June, ^52 3s. 6d. 1813, Sep., £49 19s. 6d. 

The amounts fell off a little until 1829, when 440 
seats were let, and the income for the year was ^209 15s. 

Turning again to the Treasurer's account book, it 
appears that in 1847, the seat rent income still stood 
at over ^50 a quarter. The highest point seems to 
have been reached in 1864, when it brought in ,£259. 
In recent years these figures have not been approached. 

Pasted inside the old seat rent register is a plan of 
the Chapel with the prices charged for the seats 
indicated, dating presumably from the commencement. 
The front seats of the gallery and those to the right 
and left of the pulpit in the body of the Chapel, were 
the most expensive, being 3/- per quarter. The seats 
at the remote back both above and below were at 1/- 
each, and there were intermediate prices. 


For many years the Trustees were hampered by a 
large annual payment to defray the interest on borrowed 
money. But the obligations were always duly met, 
thanks to the good anniversary collections and the 
excellent seat rent roll. In 1845 fresh liabilities were 
incurred. The large house and stable on the north 
side of the Chapel which had been bought by the 
Trustees in 181 1, and then sold, were repurchased for 
;£noo. The house was divided and rearranged for the 
accommodation of two ministers, at an expense of ,£243. 
On the site of the stable and yard behind it, were 
erected school buildings at a cost of ^840, for the use 
of both the Sunday and weekday scholars. The total 
cost of the purchase, alterations, and erections was 
about ^2500; of this sum about ^2000 was borrowed 
on the note of the Trustees and added to the debt of 
the Trust premises. But even with this burden to bear 
the position of the Trust steadily improved. 

In i860 the question of reducing the debt was 
resolutely faced. The large sum of ^1879 l6s - 7d. 
was raised by subscriptions, and a loan of ^"1300 was 
granted by the Conuexional Chapel Committee, to be 
repaid in twenty half-yearly instalments. This left a 
debt of ;£noo only: ^"600 on annuity, ^500 on loan. 
The position of the Trust continued further to improve. 
The instalments were steadily paid off. Thirteen years 
later when only the ^500 remained, a further effort was 
made. ^250 was raised to meet a loan of ^250 from 
the Connexional Chapel Committee (to be paid off in 
ten half-yearly instalments). This provided for the 
entire extinction of the debt, and was recorded with 
deep expressions of gratitude to God. On the same 


day the topstone of the City Road Chapel was laid, 
March 21st, 1873. 

In 1878 the finances of St. John Street were at 
their best, when a sound healthy Trust was not only 
meeting all its own expenses, but rendering considerable 
help towards the support of the ministry. 

The Trustees of St. John Street Chapel on the 
deed, dated July 30th, 181 1, were as follows : — 

George Iyowe, Chester, Goldsmith. 

John Jones, Chester, I^inen Draper. 

Henry Bowers, Chester, Druggist. 

George Walker, Chester, Wine Merchant. 

Robert Shearing, Chester, Druggist. 

Samuel Williams, Chester, Iyinen Draper. 

Thomas Jones, Chester, Gentleman. 

Samuel Beckett, Chester, Waggoner. 

Robert Parry, Chester, Currier. 

Thomas Shone, Lower Kinnerton, Gentleman. 

Joseph Betteley, Chester, Cordwainer. 

John Hitchen, Alpraham, Gentleman. 

James Sale, Duddon Heath, Yeoman. 

John Reece, Tarvin, Miller. 
It was arranged that there should be thirteen 
trustees. Mr. Samuel Beckett withdrew his name 
during the time the deed was in process of formation 
and Mr. Reece was appointed in his place. But just 
before the deed was engrossed Mr. Beckett desired that 
his name should be retained. Thus fourteen persons 
were appointed. Mr. John Garner, junr., was the 

It has not been found possible to compile a com- 
plete list of all those whose names have at subsequent 


times been enrolled upon the Trust ; but it is believed 
that the following particulars are not seriously deficient. 
The second enrolment was on February 14th, 1829. 
From a minute of 1830 it appears that the trustees then 
were : George Walker, Thomas Bowers, Samuel Beckett, 
William Guest, Benjamin Davies, Richard Evans, 
Matthew Harrison, Joseph Janion, Samuel Williams, 
Dutton Williams, and George L,owe. 

The next enrolment was on February 18th, 1845, 
and the trustees were Charles Simpson, Samuel Rutter, 
John Turner, Matthew Harrison, Henry Richard 
Bowers, John Simpson, Thomas Bowers, William 
Edwards, Thomas O'Hara, James B. Baker, and Joseph 

In i860 at the time when the great financial effort 
was carried out, the number of trustees had been 
reduced by death and resignation to the first seven of 
those in the preceding list, and there were then added : 
James Done Bowers, Samuel Meacock, Joseph Beckett, 
Thomas Beckett, Charles Parry, Francis Butt, and 
George Williams. 

In March, 1881, the various deeds were reviewed 
by the Connexional Chapel Committee at Manchester, 
and the whole of the property consolidated. The 
Trustees then surviving were : Matthew Harrison, H. 
R. Bowers, J D. Bowers, Charles Parry, and George 
Williams ; there were then added : William Twiston 
Davies, Charles Eee, Richard Jones, Robert Evans, 
John Griffiths, Alfred Wathew Butt, John Stringer 
Moss, and Samuel Clemence. 

On May 8th, 1891, futher additions were made: 
George Eaton Clarke, Arthur Henry Davies, Samuel 


Percy Davies, John Dodds, George Kdward Oldmeadow, 
and Michael Johnson. 

Matthew Harrison was on the trust for a very long 
period. The son of a devoted coadjutor of the Wesleys, 
and the father of one of the noblest laymen our Church 
ever had, he was a connecting link between ancient 
and modern Methodism. He was born in 1799, and 
was the son of Robert Harrison, one of the early 
Methodist preachers ordained by John Wesley. He 
was sent to Kingswood at a tender age, and, as an 
illustration of the conditions of life then prevailing it 
may be mentioned that the prohibitive cost of travelling 
made his visits to his home so infrequent that he was 
once seven years without seeing his mother., 

" Matthew Harrison settled in Chester, and for sixty years 
lived in the same house in Castle Street. When he retired 
from business he spent a great part of his time in reading, his 
love of books leading him to the accumulation of a consider- 
able number. For many years he was a familiar figure in the 
streets of Chester, tall and striking, stern yet kindly, as he 
wended his way twice a day with unfailing regularity to the 
services at the Cathedral." 

As already recorded, he married Kliza, daughter of 
the Rev. George Morley. Their eldest son was Dr. G. 
Morley Harrison, father-in-law of the Rev. John 

Matthew Harrison was early presented with the 
freedom of the City, and in honour of that event gave 
the name of the Methodist Mayor of 1827 to the son 
who was born September 4th, 1830 : Henry Bowers 
Harrison, in subsequent years so greatly honoured 
of God at Gravel Lane chapel, Manchester. 1 Matthew 
Harrison died in August 1893, aged 94. 

1. Life of H. B. Harrison: by his daughter, 1896. 












Probably few Chapels as old as St. John Street 
can shew such a short list of Chapel stewards. The 
list from the beginning is as follows, with the date of 
appointment : — 

1812 George Walker. 1828 Henry Bowers. 

1814 Robert Shearing. 1830 Matthew Harrison. 

1816 Thomas Bowers. 1831 Thomas Bowers. 

1819 Joseph Janion. 1848 Thomas Bowers, junr. 

1821 Samuel Williams. 1878 James Done Bowers. 

1823 Samuel Beckett. 1895 A. W Lucas, F.G.S 

1824 George Lowe. 

1827 Henry Bowers and Joseph Janion. 

On the resignation of Alderman Thomas Bowers in 
1878 after thirty years of devoted service, it was decided 
that the duties of the stewardship hitherto discharged 
by him should be rearranged, and that three separate 
officers should be appointed : — 1 Trustees' Treasurer ; 
2 Chapel Steward ; 3 A Steward to take oversight of 
the house property belonging to the Trustees. The 
veteran was retained in the service of the Trust by 
being appointed to the first of these offices, but shortly 
passed to his reward. Mr. J D. Bowers discharged 
the first two offices in conjunction until his death in 
1895, when Mr. John Dodds was appointed Treasurer. 

A notable early convert at the new Chapel was 
David Jackson. He was born in London in 1782, and 
died in Chester, May 23rd, 1870. It was in 181 1 that 
he came to Chester, and bound himself for seven years 
as a labourer to Mr. William Davies, bricklayer. He 
was attracted to the Watchnight service conducted by 
Rev. Wm. Aver, Rev. James Blackett and Alderman 
Henry Bowers. He was deeply impressed by the latter 
speaker, and thenceforward turned his back upon his 
sinful ways. In 181 7 he became a member of the 
Methodist Church, and retained that privilege with 


honour till his death. A man whose life was steeped in 
prayer, he had great gifts of public prayer, and as a 
class leader and local preacher, was eminently useful 
for a full half century. He never missed but one 
appointment, though the Circuit was much wider than 
it ( is at present. He would frequently walk 32 miles, 
and preach three times on the Sunday. It is said that 
he had regular stations for prayer upon these country 
journeys. Once when he was employed to erect an 
oven near Ruabon, he was often found during meal 
times in prayer, and a man who used an adjacent stable 
was constrained to say, Hither David Jackson prays too 
much or I pray too little ! He regarded Methodism as 
his home, and looked upon the Methodists of Chester 
as belonging to his family. In June, 1867, when com- 
pleting the Jubilee of his membership, he invited all 
the Chester Society to take tea with him on the Chapel 
premises ; after tea a very interesting meeting was held, 
which led to arrangements being made for the painting 
of the beautiful memorial portrait now in St. John 
Street vestry, and reproduced in this volume. 

It must distinctly be borne in mind that this is a 
history of early Methodism in and around Chester. 
The erection of St. John Street Chapel is its natural 
terminus. Many worthy ministers and laymen have 
been associated with the later history of the Circuit. 
It would have been a pleasure to have recorded their 
work had it been possible, and have said more about 
extensions at City Road and at Garden L,ane. The 
body of this work has occupied more space than was 
anticipated at the outset, and several items prepared 
for the Appendix have had to be sacrificed. 


Note A, page i. 

Everett says it was "a prebend," who gave the book. Jessop, 
(Mag. 1857), says it was Dr. Samuel Peploe. It is to be regretted that 
the names of other members of this pre-Methodist Society at Bunbury 
have not been preserved. The only name that can be added with 
certainty to those mentioned in the text is that of George Craven of 

Bunbury; probably Thomas Hilditch and Davidson were members 


Note B, page 19. 

The particulars relating to Alpraham and Bunbury, which Everett 
gives in his book on Methodism in Manchester and its vicinity, were 
derived from correspondence with Mr. John Sim Hitchen. The letters 
which passed between them have been perused for the purpose of this 

Note C, page 28. 

John Bennet, like most of the early preachers, kept a diary. His 
Journal is still extant, in whole or in part, a\id it was hoped at one time 
that the Wesley Historical Society would be able to publish it. It has 
not, however, been available for the present work, to which no doubt it 
would have materially contributed. 

Note D, page 28. 

The earliest Circuit divisions were as follows : — 

1746. — 1. London. 2. Bristol. 3. Cornwall. 4. Evesham. 5. York- 
shire (which included Cheshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, 
Rutlandshire and Lincolnshire). 6. Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 7. Wales. 

1748. — I. London. 2. Bristol. 3. Cornwall. 4. Ireland. 5. Wales. 
6. Staffordshire. 7. Cheshire (which included Cheshire itself, Notting- 
hamshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Sheffield, etc.) 8. Yorkshire. 
9. Newcastle. 1 

1. For notes C and D see the first volume of The Publications of the Wesley 
Historical Society. 


Note B, page 13. 

Wesley wrote frofh Dublin, July igth, 1750, to Mrs. Gallatin, wife 
of Colonel Gallatin, as follows : — 

The reason why we refused for several years to license any 
of the places wherein we preached was this : we supposed it 
could not be done without stiling ourselves Dissenters. But the 
Recqrder of Chester shewed us this was a mistake, and procured 
a license for Thomas Sidebottom's house in that County, altho' 
he then, as well as at all other times, professed himself a member 
of the Established Church. Since then we have licensed the 
House at Leeds, and some others. 

I do not think there is anything in this extract, kindly furnished by 
Mr. Stampe, to modify what is said in the text. It does not necessarily 
imply that Wesley had been in the city of Chester. I do not recollect 
to have met with the name Sidebottom in any of my reading. 

Note F. page 46. 

This letter was not known to Rev. B. Smith when he was drawing 
up his manuscript. But when I published it in the Methodist Recorder 
with an indication of its difficult points, it was from him that the most 
helpful reply came. The explanation given in the text is substantially 

Note G, page 56. 

Tyerman, (J. W., II., 538), makes a strange slip. In mentioning 
the opening of the Octagon in 1765, he says, "At this period Chester 
was included in the Manchester Circuit, the Society raising, by their 
united efforts, about a shilling per week for the support of their 
preachers." He gives as his authority a reference to Magazine 1844, 
wherein appeared the account of the Quarterly Meeting held at Booth- 
bank, April 1752. But in 1765, as we have seen, the Society was much 
stronger than thirteen years earlier. Hemingway in his History of 
Chester, II., 162, says the Methodists had sufficient credit to obtain 
£■520 upon bond to erect the Octagon. 

Note H, page 87. 

This journal ran through five editions by 1799, the first being 
printed by Harvie, a Chester printer, in 1768. Wesley's preface " To 
the Reader" is dated Liverpool, April 7th, 1768, See Green's Wesley 
Bibliography § 250. The pamphlet lies before me as I write. A short 
account of Miss Mary Gilbert extending to eight pages, precedes the 
extract from her Journal. This was written, surely, by her uncle 
Francis. Mr. Green says, "probably by her father." But he was far 
away in Antigua at the time. 


Note J, page 97. 

It has often been stated, as for instance on p. 14 of Dr. Gregory's 
Life of Samuel Bradburn, that Olivers was the author of Hymn 6b, 
" Lo He comes with clouds descending." But this was probably not 
so. See a full discussion in Magazine 1861 ; also Green's Wesley 
Bibliography § 192. 

Note K, page 102. 

One may be certain that many most illuminating facts about the 
Chester Circuit perished in those flames. Mr. Jackson had probably 
some reason unknown to us when he declared that the Vicar's letter 
was addressed to a young woman in Chester. The only Arreton I can 
find in the very complete index to the Royal Atlas is in the Isle of 
Wight. The Bardsley letters in the text are from originals belonging 
to Mr. George Stampe, of Great Grimsby, whose kindness I gratefully 

Note L, page 106. 

Samuel Bradburn was President in 1799, and passed to his reward 
in 1816. The particulars given are derived from the little book by 
Dr. Gregory; from The Life of Samuel Bradburn, the Methodist Demos- 
thenes, by T. W Blanshard, 187T ; and Memoirs, etc., by Eliza Weaver 
Bradburn, 1816. 

In the latter an interesting account is given of a visit of Bradburn 
paid to Chester in 1775 to see his dying mother. 

"Chester, March 7th, 1775. An unkind report having been circulated 
that I was turned a Socinian, I thought it my duty to go and confute 
such a falsehood by preaching expressly upon the subject. [For the 
same ieason he visited Rushton also on this occasion.] 

"Chester, April 21st. While I was at breakfast a messenger came 
to inform me of my mother's death. She died on the 20th inst. aged 53. 
One circumstance constrains me to be in some measure resigned ; God 
spared her life nearly twelve years ago in answer to a prayer that I 
offered up, when she seemed to be dying ; in which I begged that she 
might live twelve years exactly. 1 was then very young, and could not 
bear the thoughts of losing her ; but imagined I should be able to part 
with her after those years." 

I have said that it was Mr. Gardner of Tattenhall who disappointed 
the congregation at Wrexham and thus furnished the opportunity for 
Bradburn's first sermon. Blanshard, following the early memoir, says, 
" Mr. Gardiner of Tottenham." This I take to be a transcriptional 

Note M, page 122. 

These particulars about John Murlin are not to be found in the 
sketch of his life printed in the third volume of E.M.P They are taken 
from a rare volume in my possession entitled : Experiences and Happy 
Deaths of several Methodist Preachers who laboured in connexion with 


the late Rev. John Wesley, A.M. A New and Improved Edition. 
Dublin: Printed by John Jones, for the Methodist Book-Room, White- 
friar Street. 1806. 

Its contents correspond nearly, but not exactly, with those of 
Jackson's six volumes. 

Note N, page 131. 

The association of Madeley with Chester clearly appears from the 
following references. On p. 442 of Wesley's Designated Successor, a 
letter of Fletcher's is quoted in which he calls Boothby and Hern 
" preachers who came over to help us." Writing from Nyon in 1778 to 
the Societies in and about Madeley, he sent his love and thanks to 
Mr. Murlin and Mr. Roberts. In 1779, he writes, " Thank brother 
Costerdine and his fellow-labourer for their occasional help." At this 
time, Fletcher had recently erected a meeting house in Madeley Wood, 
now part of the Wesleyan Chapel there. 

Note O, page, 198, 

The Williams family. — Mr. Smith's MS. contained little reference 
to this family. The particulars given in the text are the fruit of much 
search in the old Magazines, and of considerable correspondence and 
inquiry. With Mrs. Gittins of Wrexham, I had a prolonged corres- 
pondence, though I never had the pleasure of her personal acquaintance ; 
and it was with great regret that I saw in the Recorder that she passed 
away shortly before these pages went to press. I am also indebted to 
Rev. R. Harding, Mrs. Tilston, Mrs. Samuel Moss, and Mrs. Edmund 
Hill^ The task has been rendered unusually difficult by the fact that 
there were two Williams families, and that the same names appear in 
successive generations. 

Note P, page 209. 

The account of the conversion of Alderman Henry Bowers is 
derived from a manuscript prepared for a funeral sermon by the Rev. 
John Bowers, and kindly lent me by a member of the family. It was 
largely quoted by Dr. Osborn in his interesting and beautiful memoir of 
Rev. John Bowers (Mag. 1870) and is doubtless authoritative. Rev. David 
Young, in his Origin and History of Methodism in Wales, gives another 
account. Alderman Henry Bowers heard Bryan preach at Beaumaris 
where the former was visiting and the latter stationed. He was so 
impressed that he came round to see the preacher early the next morn- 
ing. John Bryan, though shaving, suspended his toilet and there and 
then prayed with his visitor, who found Christ in that Anglesey 
cottage. I have ascertained that this account, if modified, is probably 
true. I think it must refer to the period when Henry Bowers was 
seeking the Lord, and that the deep conviction which took place under 
the preaching of Bryan, was afterwards erroneously spoken of as 
his conversion. But in any case it is strange that the long paper 
referred to does not mention Bryan. 



Schedules of tttemixrsbifl, uMD Rotes. 

HTHIS table of the membership in successive years of 
■*■ the places at present composing the Chester 
and the Tarporley Circuit, is as nearly decennial as the 
state of the records will allow. To avoid misunder- 
standing on the part of those who are not intimately 
acquainted with Methodism, it should be said that the 
Methodist system of reckoning members by no means 
indicates the full strength of the Churches ; adherents 
are several times as numerous as those actually 
enrolled in membership, especially of later years. 


ItOrOMMMCOtOOOvor^OONMl 1 I I 1 I I | 1 1 1 1 

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The separation of Tarporley and its associated villages was 
accomplished in 1868 after long debate, it being then arranged that the 
Chester Circuit should be worked by two married ministers and Tarpor- 
ley with one married minister and one single. At the present day the 
Tarporley Circuit comprises all the places it took over at the division, 
with the exception of Tiverton and the addition of Oakmere. Our 
Church has no building in Tattenhall itself large and important village 
as it is. But Tattenhall Lanes Chapel is not far on the one side, while 
on the other Milton Green attracts many worshippers. With respect 
to the commencement of the work in Kelsall, Janion says : " I intro- 
duced preaching into Kelsall, and gathered a Society of 10 or 15 
members. We occupied Mr. Rowe's barn first as a place to preach in, 
and afterwards we fitted up one of the out houses as a place for public 
worship : now they have a handsome good Chapel at Kelsall." 


The earliest extant tabular record of the Chester 
Circuit is that drawn up by Andrew Blair in 1788, and 
reproduced in the illustration which faces p 136 The 
Society in the City was then divided into 10 classes, 
the leaders being G. Walker, 25 ; J. Sellers 24; S. Walker, 
14; W Ellis, 11; J Parry, 14; M. Brisco, 16; My. 
Blair, 15 ; Wm. Stanton, 12 ; John Armstrong, 17 ; 
Peter Heath, 4 ; Total, 152. The schedule for 1790, 
drawn up by Parson Greenwood for the last Conference 
over which Wesley presided, gives the names as 
follows : — 

Geo. Walker, Ann Do.,Sar. Manning, Jane Jonson, George Lowe, Mary Lowe, 
Mary Walker, John Jones, Wm. Cliffe, Mary Faulkner, Mary Meredith, Cath. 
Latham, Margt. Powel, Martha Duke, Rachel Roberts, Robt. Benion, John Jones, 
Sen., Ann Bennet, Thos. Venables, JElizh. Whitehead, Margt. Bradburn, Elizth. 
Wharton, Margt. Williams, Sarah Barry, Ben. Carter, Dory. Langley, Richd. 
Atherton, Elizh. Mixon, Elizh. Rowland, John Sefton, Mary Hall. 31. 

Willm. Moulton, (late Sellers), Henry Jones, Mary Gaskill, Jane Mesham, 
Mary Williams, Mary Humphery, Ann Brown, John Skellard, Robt. Moulton, 
Richd Orme [Tailor], Elizh. Jenks, Martha Thornhill, Peter Heath, Catherine 
Robinson, Margt. Sefton, Elizh. Tomkies, James Kirk, Hannah Breeze, Ann 
Cotgrave, Thos. Foulkes (lives in Wales, but desires to have his home amongst 
us).* ao. 


Mary Ann Briscp, Lr., Fanny Hawkins, Sarah Steel, Mary Orme. Hanh. 

Challener, Hanh. Dutton, Ellis, Susannah Parrey, Liddia Sellers, Mary 

Brassey. 10. 

John Armstrong, Lr., Ann Stanton, Ann Evans, Cath. Jones, Wm. Noble, Robt. 
Roberts, Robt. Williams, Patric Boyd, Wm. Cook, John Hopson, Ann Smith, 
Mary Hocknel, Sar. Pickering, Sar. Charnick, John Jones, Jane Ithell, Mary 
Ellis. 17. 

Wm. Stanton, Lr., Collin Robinson, Thomas Bradshaw, Ann Gorton, Mary 
Jones, Elizh. Oneal, Cath. Powel, Mary Simpson, Evan Williams. 9. 

James Parry, Lr., Thomas Manning, Saml. Ankers, Thos. Caldicut, Richd. 
Jones, Richd. Parker, Thos. Taylor, John Harrison, John Hughes, John Charles 
fCordwainer], Thos. Lowe, Saml. Steel, Jos. Challenor, Martha Jones, Willm. 
hallenor. 15. 

Wm. Ellis, Lr., John Mc. Daniel, Charles Greenley, Thos. Averns, Saml. 
Bradburn, Wm. Codington, John Jones, Rem., Evan Roberts, Thos, High, James 
Haywood, Thomas Higinson, John Jones. 12. 

Wm. Ankers, Saml. Walker, Thos. Fearnal, Elizh. Williams, Jane Cook, 
Jane Oldham, Elizh. Wright, Sarah Ormes, Marg. Ridish, Mary Hinds, Mary 
Robinson, Ann Do., Mary Phillips, J as. Wharton, Mary Greenwood. 15. 

*Thomas Foulkes joined the Methodist Society at Neston early in 
its history. He afterwards removed to Chester and subsequently to 
Machynlleth. There he joined himself to the Calvinistic Methodists. 
He retained his affection for his own people and was in the habit of 
presenting a donation to the Chester Society at every Midsummer fair. 
When Owen Davies and John Hughes, the pioneers of Wesleyan 
Methodism in North Wales, came to Machynlleth he received them 


Greenwood records the following names in the 
country Societies mentioned in the above table. 

Wharton, or Rowton. 

John Dean, Lr., John Gregory, Mary Do., Thomas Williams, Pen. Do., Dan^ 
Thelley, Elizh. Do., Jo. Dean, Mary Cookson, Elizh. Howel, Mary Dean, Ann 
Williams, Charles Weaver, Jo. Dod, Samuel Dean, Han. Do., J. Ellis, Elizh. Do., 
Alice Reew, Hanh. Hooley, Thos. Dean, William Howel, Jane Mason, Ann 
Oldfield. 24. (1788,22.) 


Wm. Wild, Eliz. Do., James Holt, John Hinton, Sarah Do., Sarah Johnson, 
Elizh. Gregory, Mary Littler, 8. 


Saml Hitchens, Mary Do., Ralph Simm, Elizh. Smith,? Edwd. Penington, 
Mary Cawley, Saml. Lloyd, Mary Do., Cathe. Bebington. 9. (1788, 10 J 


James Baily, Sarah Do., Richd. Oaks, James Butler, Mary Do., Geo. Dimlla, 
Jane Do., Elizh. Jackson, Charles Wharton, Rachael Do., Wm. Warburton, Margt. 
Do., Samuel Barnes, Ellenr. Do., Thos. Walker, Cathe. Do., Wm. Challenor, Thos. 
Tapley, Elizh. Lloyd, MarthaSBailey. 20. (1788, 28.) 

Dutton Heath. 

Thos. Faulkner,* Lr., Grace Do., Mary Billington, John Varnon, Zachy. 
Snelson, Mary Amery, Hugh Wharton, John Francis, Sarah Do., Sarah Besad, 
Thos. Crowfoot, James Do., Saml. Do., Willm. Do., Willm. Wharton, Han. Do., 
Mary Dodd, Tim. Lloyd, Rich. Howel. (1788, 19.) 

Worthy, warmhearted, indefatigable Indeed, if he had 

any faults, it was an excess in religious exercises ; for when he 

had got his heart warm, he would continue his prayer for 15 or 20 

minutes; but if this were an error I wish we had more. Duddon 

Heath and Tattenhall were the first places that received the tenets of 

Methodism from Alpraham, Mr. Faulkner was one of the first 

at Duddon Heath who opened his house to receive the messengers of 

the churches. 1 


Edwd. Astbury, John Wally, Mary Do., John Do., Jane Do., Samuel Rowe, 
Martha Do., Edward Garner, Sarah Garner, John Garner, Elizh, Do., James 
Prescot, Mary Do., Esther Walley, Martha Do., Sarah Do., John Roberts, Jams. 
Sutton, Robert Watson, Ann Garner, John Done, John Garner. 22. 


Wm. Davies, Thos. Dutton, Mary Do., Thos. Youd, Alice Do., Sarah Do , 
John Dean, Elizh. Do., John Bradbury, Jas. Pritchard, Thos. Rowe, Nathl. 
Parkins. 12. (1788, 15.) 


Charles Garner, Elizh. Garner, Jo. Jackson, Elizh. Do , John Do., jun., 
Ellenr. Garner, John Johnson, Mathew Prince, Margt. Do., Elizh. Johnson. 10. 
(1788, 18.) 


In the earlier chapters of this book it has been 
indicated that in the earliest days of Methodism Circuits 
or Rounds were very extensive and vaguely denned. By 
the time of Wesley's death their boundaries had become 
fairly well fixed. The Chester Circuit then covered a 
very much wider area than in modern times. The 

1. Janion, p. 5. 


following facts derived from the study of the Chester 
records will show that the places worked in connection 
with the old Chester Circuit have been distributed over 
the following ten Circuits at least in addition to the 
Chester and Tarporley Circuits. 

1. — Wrexham. 

1790: Caergwrle. 

Richard Williams, Lr., Elis Do., John Do., Rich. Do., Eliz. Do., Martha 
Roberts, John Tillotson, Ann Ragg, Robt. Jones, Elizh Do., Marg. Robinson, 
Ab. Davis, John Sefton, Cath. Do., Eliz. Griffith, Ellen Kendrick. 16. 

1792 : Wrexham, 9 (1799, 28). 
1799 : Racre or Rackery, 7. 

Wrexham was made a circuit town in 1803, It was apparently 
handed over to the pioneers of Wesleyan Methodism in the principality 
previously to this ; for in the list of members prepared for the Confer- 
ence of 1803, Whitchurch is included but not Wrexham and its 
villages. In 1804 both are gone. The genealogy of these places on 
the borders is somewhat complicated. But in the light of the state- 
ment just made it seems that the statement in Hall's Circuits and 
Ministers, that Wrexham was formed from Welshpool, which in 1799 
was formed from Brecon, cannot stand. 

2.— Whitchurch. 

1790 : — Whitchurch. 

Thos. Roberts, Ann Do., Willm. Batho, Eliza. Do., Han. Edwards, John 
Baker, James Garmston, Saml. Hesketh, Ellen Wynn, Saml. Roberts, Ann Ellis, 
Mary Broughall, John Catterwell, John Parsons, Mary Price. 15. Mary Baker, 
Dor. Smith, Mary Roberts. (1788: 21.) 


John Winn, Mary Do., John Roberts, Eliz. Dodleston, Josh. Randols, Sar. 
Preston, Sar. Hopwood, Alice Cartwright, Amb. Edge, Ann Do., Mary Chidlow, 
Richard Radcliffe, Mary Dodleston, Richd. Gilbert, Susa. Do., Mary Butler, John 
Huxley, Danl. Catterall, Ann Do. 19. (1788 : ig.) 


Wm. Mate, Eliz. Do., Richd. Glassey, Ann Do., John Do., John Dale, Mary 
Billington, Marg. Do., Thos. Foster, Han. Do., Wm, Jones, John Clark, Sar. 
Clark, John Greatbanks, Sarah Do., Martha Glassey, Mary Do., Saml. Key, Jo. 
Sadler, Mary, Do. 21. (1788:22.) 


Whitchurch was associated with Wrexham at the division of 
1803. In 1815 it became a Circuit town. Record is also found of 
members at Tilston and Wirswall. In 1799 there were 21 members at 

3. — Nantwich. 

1790 : Nantwich. 

Thos. Robinson, Han. Davenport, Wm. Plant, Mary Do., Saml. Wilkinson, 
Cathe. Do., Elizth. Hall, Han. Swan, Sar. Brook, Mary Barker, Jane Acton, Saml. 
Penkethman, John Richardson, John Furnifall, Mary do., Ellenr. Prince, Thos. 
Knowdon, Eliz. Robinson, Pheby Williamson, Ann Do., John Welds. 21. (1788: 16. 
1799: 23.) 

1796 : Audlem ; 1799 : Whettenhall, 18 ; 1803 : Betley. 

When the Congleton Circuit was formed from Macclesfield in 
1803, Nantwich with its adjacent villages was ceded to it. Nantwich 
became the head of a separate Circuit in 1808. It is not clear whether 
Chorlton, with 21 members in 1799, is the place of that name now 
belonging to Nantwich, or a little village near Chester; probably the 
former, though in 1822, Chorlton by Wervin was on the Chester plan. 
In 1802, the Methodists of Nantwich were worshipping in an old hired 
Baptist Chapel. Ground was subsequently purchased in Hospital 
Street, on which a commodious Chapel was erected at a cost of 
£3, 300. It was opened in November, 1808, by John Gaulter. 

The first plan of the Nantwich Circuit, dated 1808, includes the 
following places : — Nantwich, Winsford, Wheelock, Buerton, Faddiley, 
Weston, Chorlton, Hough, Lea Hall, Betley, Haslington, Coppenhall, 
Minshull Vernon, Alsager, Bickerton, Peckforton, Aston Green, 
Wettenhall, Bull's Green. (History of Wesley an Methodism in the 
Crewe Circuit, Ccesar Caine, 1883). 

Despite the fact that there is no place now on the Nantwich plan 
called Acton, and an Acton does appear on the Northwich plan, it is 
probable that the work referred to in the following note was in the 
neighbourhood of Nantwich. 

178S : Burland and Acton, 15. 

1790: Iyittle Acton. 

Jo. Brown, Ann Do., Richd. Smith, Elizh. Piatt, Margt. Cookson, Elizh. 
Cawley, Elizh. Sinitb, Elizh. Brown. 8. (1799, 27.) 


Wm. Allwood, John Willet, John Wilkinson, James Piatt, Mary Do., Mary Do., 
Frances Johnson, Geo. Chester, William Chester, Thos. Cookson. 10. (1799, 7- 

William Allwood was a preacher. He is in all probability to be 
identified with the William Allwood who entered the itinerant work in 
1756 and left it in 1764. It is said that his difficulty was matrimonial, 
and that materials exist for writing an account of his romance. Samuel 
Bardsley, in an affectionate letter dated May 16th, 1775, says: — "Do 
you think you can ever take the field again ? Is not your way more 
clear than it was ? Well, come when you will, and I will give you my 

There was some trouble about Allwood in which Wesley con- 
cerned himself. The point involved was probably his practice of 
travelling and preaching in other men's Circuits. The following letter 
is of interest : — 

June nth, 1775. 
Dear Billy, 

I am not easy to have this thing hang any longer. I there- 
fore desire that you will immediately fix a day and summon all 
the Trustees, Preachers, Stewards, to meet you on that day at 
Chester, to determine that affair at once, and bring it to a final 


I am, 

Your affectionate brother, 


Room must be found here for a word about a noted Cheshire 
Methodist, Thomas Walker. He was born in 1777, and in 1781 the 
family removed to Broxton Lower Hall. He was much helped by the 
local preachers, including Alderman Bowers, William Williams, and 
Peter Woolley of Duckington. When he first joined the Methodist 
Society, he attended public worship at Tattenhall, and subsequently 
at Duckington. He made himself very useful in the locality. In 1826 
he purchased a farm at Minshull Vernon, and opened his house for 
preaching. He gave the land for the chapel there, and also the bricks 
required. His later years were spent at Nantwich, where he was 
honoured as a sympathetic visitor of the sick and dying. He died 
Sept. 6th, 1845. 


4. — Northwich. 

1790 : Winsford. 

Charles Bebington, Ann Do., Ann Delves, Mary Gerrard, John Do., Thos. 
Vernon, Reb. Do., Geo. Wood, Margt. Wood, John Hampson, Sarah Griffith, Ann 
Blower, Elizh. Kent. 13. (1799 : 27.) 

Slater in his Chronicle of Lives and Religion in Cheshire speaks 

of Thomas Hulse, one of the early Methodists of Winsford, whose 

Christian life dated from long before the erection of any chapel in that 

place. Hulse used to say that when a boy he heard one of the first 

Methodist preachers. When the good man took his stand in the 

street, men, women and children ran in all directions to see the 

monster, and a murder in the street could hardly have caused a greater 


1796: Over. 

1799: Swanley L,ane, ir, probably represents the 

modern Swanlow L,ane. 
5.— Mold. 

John Wesley preached at Mold on several occasions, but the 
place is first mentioned in 1792, 10 members, though nothing has come to 
hand with respect to the formation of the Methodist Society there. 
The work at Buckley was remarkably successful in the middle of the 
century: 1810, 21; 1822, 73; 1831, 90. In 1831 Mold had only 8 
members. Mold and Buckley were ceded to Denbigh in 1832, the 
Chester Circuit in that way losing 104 members. Mold has been for 
many years a single station with Buckley and several other places 
upon its plan. Edward Parry who died in Chester in 1879 did a great 
work for that Circuit. 

6. — Frodsham. 

In 1 83 1 there were 30, and in 1840 20 members at 
Helsby which now belongs to the Frodsham Circuit 
which was formed in 1872. In 1791 there were members 
at Kingsley 

Many particulars relating to the introduction of Methodism into 
Frodsham and neighbourhood may be gathered from Janion. 

Some time in the year 1790 the Methodists fitted up two 
bays of a barn for preaching in the town of Frodsham, which 


were given to them by a farmer for that purpose. This place 
they occupied for ihe space of 12 or 14 years, until Divine Provid- 
ence gave them the means of erecting a substantial Chapel at 
the east end of the town, which has since its erection, been 
considerably enlarged, so that it is now capable of accommodating 
5 or 6 hundred persons. With this chapel has been connected 
for many years a good Sunday School. About the year 1800, my 
worthy friend and neighbour, Mr. Samuel Burgess of Helsby, 
fitted up a large room on his own premises, with a view of 
affording accommodation to his family and neighbours therein to 
worship God and to hear His word. 
But it does not appear that any members at Frodsham were ever 

enrolled in the Chester Circuit. The place seems to have been 

worked by preachers from the other side. 

7. — Birkenhead. 

In 1790 there were the following members at 
Heswall (spelt then Haswell) : 

Wm. Jones, John Minchall, John Upton, Thomas Williams, Jo. Blundell, 
Jo. Boumphrey, Han. Do., Eliz. Williams, Eliz. Gilbert, Mary Upton, Eliz. Burrows, 
Eliz. Blundell, James Swift, Jane Briscoe, John Burrows, John Jackson, Margt. 
Davis. 17, (Several of the names are marked with a cross, and at the end is 
writte'h " given up.") 

The work at Heswall was part of the shortlived Wirral Mission 
described on p. 147. Heswall is now a prosperous station in the 
Birkenhead Circuit which was divided in 1851 from Liverpool. Prob- 
ably the modern Methodism of the Wirral is quite distinct from that 
which Miles Martindale inaugurated. There is also one record of 
members at Tranmere. 

8. — Rock Ferry, divided in 1888 from Birkenhead. 
Several of the places on its plan appear in the early 
Chester records. 

1790 : Neston. 

Richard Hilsbury, George Welsh, Elizh. Do,, Thos. Peters, Elizh. Do., Mary 
Guile, Mary Ware, Jane Brown, Margt. Do., John Williams, Richd. Lewis, John 
Prince, Henry Swift, Pheby Do., Alice Roberts, John Graham, Jo. Garner, Saml. 
Gladwin, Margt. Rothwell, Nancy Rawson. 20. (1788, 17 ; 1799, 17 ; 1822, 30 ; 
1831, 54 ; 1840, 15 ; 1850, 20.) 

For Methodism in Neston see pages 53, 63 and 189. 

1822 : Thornton Hough, n ; 1840, do., 3 ; 1850, do., 6. 

Is Burton Green with 10 members in 1822, the Burton near 
Neston from which the little cause at Puddington draws a large pro- 
portion of its congregation ; or the Burton whence worshippers go to 
Duddon Chapel ? 

Bebington in 1788 had 13 members ; it does not 
appear in 1790; in 1799 there were 11. Whether its 
present Methodism, which dates back a long way, is 
continuous with the old cannot be said. 

9. — Denbigh, see page 177. 

10. Seacombe. There were members at discard in one 

of the early schedules. 


There is now to be recorded a remarkably long list 
of places where there were once members belonging to 
the Chester Circuit, but where there is at the present 
day, so far as the writer can ascertain, no organised 
English Wesley an Methodisvt. This fact however does 
not spell Methodist failure in every case. 

a. Redistribution of various kinds has taken 
place. For instance, though many of the names 
associated with the earliest Methodist work in the 
Wirral district are no longer to be found in any 
Methodist returns, the important centres of Birken- 
head, Seacombe, Hoylake, and others, are now 
occupied by our Church. 

b. In some of the places Welsh Methodism in 
one of its sections is meeting the needs of the 

c. Other Methodist Churches have entered the 
field ; as the following list, by no means exhaustive, 
will shew. 


The Chester Circuit of the Methodist New Connexion comprises 
Chester, Oscroft, Delamere, Aldford, Shocklach, Holt, and Huxley. 
There is also a Circuit with its head quarters at Hawarden. 

The Primitive Methodists of Chester have Chapels as follows. — 
First Circuit: George Street, Guilden Sutton, Saughall, Willaston, 
Little Neston, Manley, Elton, Mickle Trafford, Piper's Ash, and 
Croughton. Second Circuit : Hunter Street (City Temple), Churton, 
Rossett, Saltney, Dodleston, Golly, Llay, Commonwood. Third 
Circuit: Boughton, Huxley, Clotton, Ashton, Tarvin, and Stapleford. 
Ellesmere Port is also the head of a strong Primitive Methodist Circuit. 

Here it may be said that the course of Primitive Methodism in 
this neighbourhood has been quite distinct from that of the old body. 
The beneficent work done by this community in the area covered by 
this history is gratefully recognised. 

Besides these considerations it must be borne in 
mind, that some of the places about to be named, had 
societies merely, without trust-property. 

From Blair's schedule for 1788, are taken the 
following which do not appear later : Caldy 13, Willing- 
ton, 16, Chumpson (Cholmondeston) 8. 

From Greenwood's list, 1790, are taken : — 


Hugh Ley, Lr., John Davis, John Ley, Mary Davis, Ann Davis, Jo. Phillips, 
Margt. Do., Ann Do., Jo. Do., John Price, Cathe. Davis, John Shewel, Elizh 
Roberts, Jane B., William Williams, Mary Do., John Phillips, Elizh. Do., Mary 
Griffith, Jane Burton, John Davis, Mary Williams, Ithel Davis, Thos. Leech, 
Margt. Phillips, Mary Davis. 25. (1788, 13 ; 1799, 14; 1810, 25.) 


Richard Harrison, Lr., Wm. Hughes, Jane Harrison, Margt. Do., Mary 
Tomley, Elizh. Davis, Jane Hoskins, Sar. Price, Ann Do., Ann Morice. 10. 
(1788, 6 ; 1799, 9.) 

New Pale. 

Ralph Rolinson, Ann Do., George Pugh, Alice Do., Robt Do., Esther Do., 
Margery Dych, Mary Tickle, Ann Hall, Martha Othwell, Martha Capper, Martha 
Mercer, Wm. Parkinson, Martha Do. 14. (1788, New Pale and Woodside 9 ; 
1799, 24 ; 1810, 15.) 

Mrs. Alice Pugh was one of the Lewis family of Godscroft 
Janion writes in 1833 : — 


When I call to mind the public meetings which were held 
at the New Pale about forty years ago, especially our love-feasts, 
which came round once or twice in the year, I think I am got 
back to the primitive ages of Christianity, when simplicity and 
godly sincerity occupied every bosom. We were of one heart 
and one soul, and only love inspired the whole. The influence of 
these love-feasts spread as far as Manchester and Bolton, and 
our friends came from every quarter. Such crowds came from 
neighbouring villages, that at times we were obliged to hold the 
love-feasts out of doors, or in some of the out buildings ; and 
great were our rejoicings on those occasions. 


Charles .Done, Mary Done, David Price, Sar. Yoxhall, Margt. Rigby, Edd. 
Thornton, Silvester Warrington, Martha Thornton, Benj. Hancock, Jane Jones, 
Ann Williams, Cather. Price. 12. (1788, 13 ; 1799, 3). 


Richd. Yeardsley, Jonr. Hays, Thos. Lewes, John Johnson, John Ledsham, 
Martha Lewis, John Price, Margt. Do., Jam. Trilford, Elizh. Do., Willm. Do., 
Nancy Do., Saml. Upton, Margt. Do., Mary Pears, Rachel Collins. 16. (1788, 11). 


Thos. Turnifall, Richd. Halle, Sobt. Silcock, Elizh. Kendrick, Margt. 
Hayward, Richd. Shulcock, Abrm. Tronton, Jo. Barker, Han. Do. 9. (1788, 7). 

Melse [Meols ?] 

Marg. Cookson, Willm. Martin, Mary Do., Fanny Do., Willm. Cookson, 
Simon Do., Saml. Done, Ann Do., John Smith, Alice Do., Hanh. Barlow, Wm. 
Renison, Sar. Do., Wm. Evans, John Holmes, James Caturick. 16. (1788, 14). 


James Raynford, Elizh. Do., Elizh. Johnson, Mary Carter, John Do., Rose 
Randle, Elizh. Lavey, Jo. Warren, Robt. Davis, Jo. Davis, Charles Taylor. 11. 


John Barker, Mary Do., Peter Plumley, Mary Do., Mary Roberts, Thos. 
Hitchens, Mary Do., Sarah Stockton, Jonn. Hitchens, Sarah Bettley. 10. (178b, n; 
1799, 14). 


Thomas Bowden, Mary Do., John Rowland, Sarah Do., Thos. Guest, Mary 
Do. Ann Gardner, Richd. Smith, Sarah Do., Saml. Moss, John Do., Ellen Do., 
Martha Foxley, Dan Smith, Mary Do., Thos. Fleet, Mary Do., John Windsor, Han. 
Owens, Rem., Ann Woodflint, Wm. Wilson, Rem., John Furnifall, John Smith. 23. 
(1788, 18; 1799, 19; it22, 12; 1831, 10.) 


When Mr. John Reece, together with his two neighbours, 
Mr. Robert Dutton of Brassey Green, and Mr. Boden, then of Hoofield 
Hall, afterwards of Peckforton, first joined the Methodist Society, it 
made a great noise in the county. For some time they seemed to 
waver between Calvinism and Arminianism ; but I believe that a 
sermon preached by Mr. Robert Roberts, determined their choice 
among the Methodists. ( Janion, p. 81.) 


James Woolrich, Wm. Jones, James Pickering, Elizh. Do., Wm. Johnson, 
Mary Weaver, Richd. Faulkner, Alice Do., Cath. Smith, Han. Walker, Mary 
Vauhan, John Steel, Thos. Tinsley. 13. John Singleton, Eliz. Aston, Thos. 
Simpson, Mary Parker. (1788, 14 ; 1799, 25.) 

Tallent Green. 

Wm. Peak, Peter Hope, Simon Do., Thomas Do., Rem., Elizh Davis, Mary 
Faulkner, John Davis, Sarah Do., Ann Hope, Audrey Do., Rem., Ann Peak, 
Jon, Hughs, Rem , Richd. Hope, Sick. 13. (1799, 24). 


Jane Cliffe, Elizh. Do., Thos. Bradshaw, Ann Do., Elizh. Jarvis. 5. (1799, 3). 


Willm. Cartledge, Thos. Cliffe, Elizh. Do., Margt. Coons, Geo. Clifie, John 
Chester, Saml. Hughs, Wm. Cliffe, Wm. Cooper, Eliz. Massey, Jane Sumner, 
Willm. Breeze, Charles Sproston, Susn. Serjeant. 13. (1788, 20; 1799, 15). 


Robt. Dutton, Peter Do., Mary Tickle, Thos. Do., John Do., Richd. Do., 
Sarah Dutton, John Young, Richd. Dutton, Edward Do., Mary Do., John Sandbach. 
12. (1788, 16; 1799, 17; 1810, 10). 

An examination of later records, keeping in the 
main to the same decennial periods of enumeration as 
in the preceding table, adds these names to the already 
lengthy list : — 

Godscroft (1799, 6; 1810, 10; 1822, 19; 1831, 10). 

Lea Hall (1799, 6), a common name in Cheshire, was probably 

near Nantwich, as the leader's name was Withinshaw. 
Leighton (1799, n). 
Trafford (1810, 5). 
Bretton (1810, 6 ; 1822, 2). 
Horsley Bath (1810, 17 ; 1822, 6). 


Mollington (1822, 10; 1831, 11 ; 1840, 9; 1850, 9). 

Lynypandy (1831, 4). 

Upton (1831, 7). 

Halkin (1831, 14) 

Barnston (1840, 8). 

Raby (1840, 6; 1850, 10). 

Yew Tree House (1840, 11 ; 1850, 13). 

Beeston (1840, 9 ; 1850, 6). 

Elton (1840, 6 ; 1850, 8 ; i860, 2). 

Utkinton (1840, 7). 

Stoke (1840, 6; 1850, 6). This must be a little village between 

Chester and Ellesmere Port, not the Pottery town. 
Farndon (i860, 2). 
Oscroft, Egg Bridge, Brimstage, Burwardsley, Northwood, Welsh- 

ampton, Spurstow, Barton, Bull's Green, Pentrehobin, 

Penymynydd, and Willaston, also appear. 


The members in the Circuit in 1803, after the 
important divisions which took place at the beginning 
of the nineteenth century were : — 

Chester 100, Rowton 10, Pentrobin 20, Kinnerton 12, Leighton — , 
Neston 15, Dunham 13, Godscroft 9, New Pale 17, Rushton 9, 
Tiverton 13, Duddon Heath 9, Tarporley 40, Alpraham 30, Winsford 
29, Swanlow Lane 5, Bunbury 22, Peckforton 36, Huxley Lane 6, 
Whettenhall 11, Bull's Green 10. 

The oldest plan of the Chester Circuit which has 
come to hand, was kindly lent by Mr. James Walker, 
of Northgate Street. It is for 1817. 

The places were : — Chester, Bunbury, Tarporley, Buckley 
Mountain, Mold, Neston, Kinnerton, Bretton, *Pulford, *Greenwalls, 
Tattenhall, Helsby, * Godscroft, Kelsall, Mouldsworth, Alpraham, 
*Bath,*Peckforton, *Burwardsley, Duddon Heath, Barrow, Mollington, 
Rowton, # Christleton, # Dunham, # Trafford, *Clotton. 

The places marked with an asterisk were only supplied fortnightly. There are 
no week night services on this plan. 


The Preachers were : — Aver, Blackett, Hitchens, Ellison, 
Wharton, R. Jackson, Spratt, Reece, Astbury, Bowers, Spence, 
Nickson, Hurst, Vernon, Bebbington, Mellor, Barrow, Hulse, 
Picton, Wilson, Evans, Turner, Hussey, Lloyd, Dutton, J. 
Nickson, Jackson, Foxall, Williams, C. Janion, J. Janion, 
Edwards, T. Bowers, Simpson, S. Jackson, Evans. 

On the plan for 1821 the following additional places appear : — 
Guilden Sutton, Tilston, Chorlton, Waverton, Pentrehobin. 


An interesting old Minute Book of the I^ocal 
Preachers' Meeting, furnishes a good deal of informa- 
tion with respect to the working of the circuit in the 
earlier parts of the century. In the period covered by 
the first part of the book, which commences with 1825, 
the meetings were held fortnightly. An entry relative 
to the giving up of the service in many of the country 
places on the day when the Foreign Missionary sermons 
were preached in the city reveals a custom that has 
long since been discontinued. Such an interruption 
must have been very detrimental to the work. 

Amongst the places mentioned in the volume are : Mold, which 
in 1826, it was decided to take off the plan, no details being given ; 
Kinnerton, " Bro. Richard Asbury having taken the chapel at Kinnerton 
for twelve months certain, this meeting agree to supply it afternoon 
and night in conjunction with the Buckley preachers." (1826.) 

From the same book is taken the following extra- 
ordinary programme for the Watchnight of 1826. Our 
fathers must have had great staying power ! 

1. H. Bowers to preach .. .. 60 minutes. 

2. S. Meacock to pray 

3 J. Turner to speak , , 

4. W. Heath to pray . . 

5. R. Spence to speak 

6. Thos. Floyd, to pray 

7. Thos. Bowers to speak 

8. J. Hick (Minister) to conclude 

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The First Page of the Circuit Stewards' Hook, 1812. 



Cbe Circuit Stewards' Account Book, 

THE photograph giving an account of the contribu- 
tions from the various places in the Circuit is 
taken from the first page of the very strong and 
handsome volume in which the Circuit Stewards have 
kept their accounts from the time the St. John Street 
Chapel was built right down to the present time. The 
hand- writing is that of Alderman Henry Bowers. 

The following scattered facts, additional to some 
that have already been given, may prove of interest : — 

In one place at least mention is found of the old custom of 
paying ministers partly in cash and partly by orders upon the stewards 
of societies that had not sent in their due amount. 

1813. 2/- each charged for the Quarter Board dinner. 

1814, Deer. £41 4s. gd. due to the Treasurer and stewards. It 
was resolved that 1/6 per member be raised by the leaders. On the 
whole this heavy levy was successfully carried out. It was resolved 
that " each married preacher shall be paid from this board the sum of 
£30 per quarter instead of board, quarterage, coals, candles, water 
money, servants, washing, gates, stationery and letters." Turnpikes, 
it may be said, are a frequent item in the accounts. 

1823. A vigorous attempt was made to cope with the financial 
situation, by resolving that collections be taken in every congregation 
on the last Sunday in August and the first in September, to discharge 
the debt ; and that the following sums be expected quarterly : — 

Neston, Thornton, and Willaston, £5 ; Tarporley and Eaton, £6 ; 
Buckey, £5 ; Alpraham, £5 ; Bunbury, £5 ; Duddon, £1 ; Moulds- 
worth, £1 10s. ; Barrow, £1 10s. 

1826. The March Quarterly Meeting was held at Kelsall, 
followed by a sermon and a Watchnight service. 

2 go 

Subscriptions to Connexional efforts. 

IN 1811 a special contribution of £*j us. 6d., mostly 
from the City, was sent by the Chester Circuit 
towards the expenses occasioned by opposition to I^ord 
Sidmouth's Bill, which would have proved most 
injurious to Methodists, as it included an attempt to 
require all persons applying for licenses to preach to 
prove that they were the ministers of distinct congre- 
gations. It was defeated in the House without a 

In 1818 ^14 is. was subscribed for the liquidation 
of the debt of the Connexion. Henry Bowers, 5 
guineas ; Phyllis, Martha, and Samuel Williams, do. ; 
Mrs. Gilbert, Mr. Joseph Janion, 1 guinea each ; small 

sums 8s. 

In 1819 £33 2s. was subscribed towards the relief 
of distress in the West Indies. 

Chester has taken an honourable position in the 
three major Methodist financial efforts. 

In the report of the Centenary Fund, published in 
1834, Chester is credited with ^603 os. 6d. Items of 
special interest were Mrs. and Miss Gilbert, ^30 ; 
Mrs. Gilbert in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett of 
Boughton, £10 10s, ; Joseph Reece, Esq., Tarporley, 
and Mrs. Reece, £\o 10s. each, in memory of Mr. 
Reece's parents who were connected with Methodism 
60 years. 


The Thanksgiving Fund (1878-1883). Chester con- 
tributed ^998 4s. 3d. 

The Twentieth Century Fund of One Million 
Guineas. Chester promised at the outset One 
Thousand Guineas and honourably redeemed its 
promise with an ample margin. 


£ist or Subscribers to St 3oDn Street CDapel. 

AMOUNT of the Subscriptions towards the erection 
of a New Chapel for the Public Worship of 
Almighty God, in Saint John Street, in the City of 
Chester: — Began by the Society of Methodists in this 
City, in the month of May, in the year of our Lord, 181 i. 

£ s. d. 

The House of Messrs. Phillis, Martha, and Samuel 

Williams, Linen Drapers.. 
Miss Phillis Williams of the above House (a class leader) 
George Lowe, Esquire, Goldsmith, a class leader and 

Henry Bowers, Esquire, Druggist, a Trustee 
John Jones, Linen draper, a Trustee and class leader 
Mr. Thomas Cliff, Gentleman, the father-in-law of Mr. 

John Jones .. .. .. .. . . 10 o o 

Thomas, Edward-parry, and Eliza, three infant children 

of Mr. John Jones .. .. .. .. 10 o o 

George Walker, Wine Merchant, a Trustee . . . . 5000 

Mr. Robert Parry, Currier, a Trustee .. .. 25 o o 







Mr. Robert Shearing, Druggist, a Trustee 

Mr. Thomas Shone, Gentleman, of Lower Kinnerton, a 

Mr. Samuel Beckett, Waggoner, a class leader.. 
Mr. Samuel Smith, Gentleman 
Mr. Thomas Hardman, of Wigan 
William Smith, Esquire, of Warrington, from whom the 

premises were purchased 
Mr. Thomas Jones, Gentleman, a Trustee 
Mr. Thomas Jackson, Shopman, a local preacher 
Mr. William Howie, Gunner at the Castle of Chester, 

class leader 
Mr. Thomas Allen, Macclesfield, Hatter 
Mr. James Done, Farmer, Bradford p : Northwich 
James Snape, Esquire, Brewer . . . . 

Thomas Moseley Bennett, Esquire, Ironfounder, Chest 

and Liverpool 
Mr. John Seller, Brewer .. .. 

William Newell, Esquire, Brewer, and Alderman of th 

City of Chester .. 
Mr. Charles Parry, Rope manufacturer 
Mr. John Walker, Goldsmith.. 
Messrs. Daniel and John Smith, Shoemakers 
Mr. Joseph Betley, Shoemaker 
Mrs. Thomas Jenkins, widow, Tanner.. 
Thomas Jones, Esquire, Hardware dealer 
Mr. William Hankey, Hair Dresser 
Miss Mary Meacock, Dressmaker 
Richard Buckley, Esquire, Wine Merchant 
Mrs. Joseph Wright, Widow 
Thomas Clubbe, Esquire, Brewer 
Mr. Thomas Jones, Linen draper 
Mr. Joseph Hancock, Shoemaker 
Mr. Francis Parry, Baker 
David Francis Jones, Esquire, Solicitor 
Miss Eliza Walker 
Miss Ann Bowers 










































Miss Julia Jones 

A friend, p. Geo. Walker 

Mr. Chas. Sproston, Gentleman, of Stoke p: Namptwich 

John Egerton, Esquire, of Oulton Park, Cheshire, one of 

the representatives in parliament for the City of Chester 
John Fletcher, Esquire, Merchant 
Mr. John Garner, Junior, Solicitor, a local preacher 
Mr. Adam Bailey, Bleacher, Ratcliffe, Lancashire 
Joseph Johnson, Esquire, Wine Merchant 
Mrs. Collin Robinson, Widow, Flour dealer 
William Cole, Esquire, Builder 
Mr. Daniel Ley, Gentleman .. 
Mr. John Hitchen, Gentleman, Alpraham, Cheshire, a 

Mr. Richard Williams, Farmer, Rackerry, Denbighshire 

the Brother of Messrs. Williams, Linen drapers 
William Richards, Esquire, Town Clerk 
Mr. John Mellor, Plumber 
The Reverend George Morley, Methodist Minister, the 

Brother-in-law of Messrs. Williams, linen drapers 
Miss Hannah Pickering, Servant to Mrs. Cummin, Widow 
Mr. Robert Topham, Skinner.. 
Miss Leming, Spinster, Manchester 
The Reverend John Braithwaite, Methodist Minister 
Mr. Robert Foulkes, Brandy Merchant 
Mr. Joseph Sheppherd, Carpenter 
John Bradford, Esq., Tanner .. 



















2 2 

5 5 
10 10 

5 o 
o o 
o o 




All the above belonged to Chester, unless otherwise 
specified. The lists of payments and promises do not 
coincide ; and the Treasurer's book differs somewhat 
from the Secretary's, from which the above list is 


Wel$D Weslepan metbodism in Cluster. 

A DETAILED account of Wesleyan Methodist work amongst the 
Welsh speaking section of the population in Chester is excluded 
by the scope of this book, for none appears to have been attempted till 
the nineteenth century was well in its teens. Moreover the available 
materials are largely to be found in Welsh publications, which the 
present writer is unable to read. It is however well to set down briefly 
the various steps by which Welsh Wesleyan Methodism came to be 
established in the city. 

The Stranger s Companion in Chester, 1821, in a paragraph upon 
St. John Street says, " a small building by the side of it in the same 
yard belongs to a Welsh congregation of the same opinions." The 
services held in the schoolroom were initiated a few years previously 
by Mr. »Evan Jones, a Welsh Wesleyan from Rhuddlan who came to 
Chester in 1815. The Society was included in the English Circuit for 
some time, and in the old membership registers " the Welch class " 
appears for several years. In 1822 it was transferred to the Holywell 
Welsh Circuit. Boarding School Yard and Shoemakers' Row are 
mentioned as successive meeting places of the Society at this period. 

In 1827 a site was purchased in Hamilton Place for ^150. Great 
sacrifices were incurred by the brave Society as they proceeded to 
erect a Chapel thereon. It is said that they actually pawned their 
watches when there was no money in hand to pay the workmen. In 
August 1828 the Revs. John Bowers, Joseph Raynor, and others took 
part in the opening services of the Hamilton Place Chapel. The work 
continued to prosper and in 1850 a new chapel was erected upon the 
same site. The Chester Society was transferred to Mold upon the 
division of the Holywell Circuit, but for some years past it has been 
included in the Bagilt Circuit. In 1884 the beautiful modern chapel 
in Queen Street was erected. The site of the Hamilton Place 


chapel is now included in the area occupied by the Market Hall. 
Many worthy names are to be found on the roll of Chester Welsh 
Wesleyans and it is greatly to be desired that the work may prosper, 
for in a border city like Chester there will always be found a large 
number of people more accessible to religious teaching in their own 
well-loved native tongue, than in the English language which in nearly 
every case they understand. Some of the foregoing information is 
derived from Rev. David Young's Origin and History of Methodism in 
Wales, in which further particulars are given. 


CDe erection of Citp Road CDapeL 

AFTER a mission had been carried on for some years in Black 
Diamond Street, a site offered in City Road was taken up by the 
St. John Street people, and a new Chapel erected thereon, several 
families transferring their membership thither from the mother chapel. 
The corner stones of the new building were laid on a beautiful day in 
July, J872. At the ceremony four trowels were presented : the first, 
by Alderman Bowers to Mr. Thomas Hazlehurst, of Runcorn; the 
second, by Mr. Charles Lee to Mr. W. C. Marsden, of Bolton; the 
third, by Mr. Charles Parry to Mr. Joseph Beckett, of Belvidere, near 
Whitchurch; the fourth, by Mr. H. R. Bowers to Mr. William Smith, 
of Darcy Lever, Bolton. The opening Service was held on October 1st, 
1873, and the first sermons were preached by the Rev. G. T. Perks, 
M.A., then President of the Conference, Rev. Morley Punshon, Rev. 
Gervase Smith, Rev. Luke H. Wiseman, and Rev. Richard Roberts. 
The cost of the Chapel, which provides seats for 1000 persons, was 
upwards of £7000. In 1875, the Trustees' Treasurer was able to state 
that no debt remained on the property. 


City Road, though # young, has its memories and its hallowed 
traditions. Andrew Bromwich was born at Chester in 1863. Converted 
at seventeen, he soon engaged in Christian work, and was for several 
years the life and soul of a successful mission band. The Conference 
of 1885 sent hi" 1 ) as a candidate, to Richmond College. In January, 
1887, he went out to the fatal West Coast of Africa, and like many 
another heroic worker fell a victim to the climate very soon after his 
arrival there. A man of attractive and winning personality, full of 
earnestness and zeal, he exercised a great influence over his contem- 
poraries at City Road, and was the means of turning many to 
righteousness. A tablet to his memory is one of the ornaments of the 

Rev. Thomas B. Goodwin, after his retirement from the active 
work of the ministry, rendered valuable help to the City Road Society, 
in connection with which he conducted a class. He was a Christian 
gentleman of a rare and beautiful type ; courteous, yet firm. It is 
difficult to estimate his influence upon the society, so unostentatiously 
was it exerted. His memory is fragrant still amongst those who were 
privileged to come into close contact with him. The Goodwins were 
a Levitical family indeed. — Rev. T. B. Goodwin, 1841-1895, was a son 
of Rev. Josiah Goodwin, 1808-1866, who was a son of Rev. John 
Goodwin, 1768-1808 (Chester Circuit, 1796-7). It is said that the 
conversion of John Goodwin took place under the preaching of Moses 
Dale, of Northwich, a man whom Wesley would not receive into the 
itinerant ranks because of his deficient abilities. 



The Roman numerals following the names refer to Chapters, 
and the plain figures to pages. 

The names of preachers appointed to the Circuit are only 
included in the case of those 7t)ho receive extended mention in 
the text, these names are given without title; whereas all other 
Clergy and Preachers included are styled "Rev" and the laymen 

" Mr." 

The Index does not include matters mentioned only in the 
Appendix or Notes. 

Acton, 5, 35, 36 

Alpraham, I., 35, 36, 42, 112, 

Baldwin, Rev. John, 34 

Bardsley, S., 70, 99, 113 

Barlow, S., 38 

Bealey, Mr. Rd., 195 

Bennet, John, I., II. 

Bennett, Mr. Thos., 65, 112, VII. 

Birchenall, Dr., 217 

Blair, Andrew, 136 

Boothbank, 35 

Boughton, 26, 238 

Bowers, Alderman Henry, 207 
Do. Rev. John, 213 
Do. the family, 214, 267. 

Bradburn, Rev. S., 56, 103, 178, 

233, 255 
Brisco, n hos., in, 143 
Broster, Mr. Thomas, 40 

Do. Miss Sarah, 40, 215 
Bruce, Mr. Rd., 36, 191 
Bryan, Rev. John, 178 
Bunbury, T. 

Calveley Hall, 7, 11 
Carman, Mr. William, 205. 
Catton, Mr. George, 28 
Cawley, the family, I., 35, 126, 

Cheek, Mosley, 85 
Chester Churches : — 

St. John's, 28, 31, 80 

St. Martin's, 29, 31, 33, 34 

St. Bridget's, 66 

St. Werburgh's, 80 

Trinity, 80 

The Cathedral, 80 

Matthew Henrys, 117 

Independent, Queen Street, 

118, T50, 217 
M. N. C, Pepper Street, 174 
Presbyterian, City Road, 224 
Christleton, 76, 238 
Clarke, Rev. Dr. Adam, 158, 187 
Coke, Rev. Dr., 158, 173, 234 
Commonhall Street Preaching- 
room, IV., V 
Cooke, Joseph, 184 

Darney, William, 22 
Davenport, Rd., Esq. 7, 11 
Davies, Owen, 170, 176 * 
Day School, 241 
Dean, Rev. John, 151 
Denbigh, 177 
Duckington 61 

Escrick, Mr. George, 36 
Everett, Rev. Jas., I. 

Fletcher, Rev. John, 8r, 86, 88, 

Furz, John, 55 

Gardner, the family, 14, 192 
Gaulter, Rev. John, 39, 134, 171, 

202, 256 
Gilbert, the West Indian family, 

their residence in Chester, and 

other facts, 72.95 
Do. Miss Mary, her Journal pub. 

by Wesley, 86 
Gittins, Mr. John, 196 
Gommer, Mr. B., 209 
Goss Street Library, 240 
Grimshaw, Rev. Wm., 4, 38 

Hampson, Rev. John, 35,^36, 67, 

Handbridge, early Sunday School 

work in, 238 
Harbridge, Mary, 179 
Harrison, Matthew, 196, 266 

Do. H. B., 266 
Harrison, Mr. Thomas, Architect, 

Haswell, J. P., 189 
Haughton, John, 37 
Heath, Mr. Peter, 47 
Hitchen, S. and J. S., I. 
Hobrow, Mr., 137 
Hopper, Christopher, 8, 37 
Home, Rev. Melville, 83 
Horner, William, 125 

Huntington Hall, 28 
Hughes, John, 176 

Jackson, Mr. Daniel, 16 
Do. Rev. Thos. 24 
Do. Rev. William & ancestors, 

Do. Mr. David, 267 
Jaco, Peter, 43 

Janion, Mr. Joseph, 178 ; his book 
181, quoted passim 
Do. Rev. Charles, 181 ; his 
mother, 128 
Jones, Mr. John, of Weaverham, 25 
Do. Mr. Rd., of Love Lane, II. 
Do. Mr. Edwd. of Bathafarn, 176 
Joyce, Matthias, 108 

Kilham, Rev. Alexr., 159 
Kingsley, 179 
Kingswood School, 14 

Langson, Mary, 107 

Leadbetter, Mrs. afterwards Mrs. 
F. Gilbert 

Lee, Thos. 51 

Leighton, 63, 121, 161 

Little Leigh, 178 

Lessey, Rev. Theophilus, 179 

Lowe, Mr. G. Sen., 58, 62, 226 
Do. Mr. G., Junr., 218 
Do. G., the preacher, 141, 183 
Do. Thos., 173 

Lyons, James, 173 

Manchester Round, 35, 39 
Manners, Nicholas, 51 
Martindale, Rev. Miles, 146 
Marsden, the family, 138, 150, 

Maskew, Jonathan, 37, 38 
Mather, Alex., 71 
Methodist New Connexion, forma- 

tion, etc., etc., V., see also VII. 
Methodist Chapel, Independent, 

Trinity Lane, 157, 174 

Miller, Robert, 186 
Moat House Farm, g 
Mold, 36, 48, 177 

Morley, G., 175, 195 

Moss, Mrs. Jane, 219 

Mouldsworth, 179 

Moulton, Rev., Wm., and his 

descendants, 205 
Murlin, John, 122 

Nelson, John, 1, 47 
Neston (53), 63, 121, 188 
Norley, 179 

Octagon Chapel, erection and 
early years, III. 
Do. later years, VI. 
Do. post-Methodist history 
of, 221 
Octagon Sunday School, VII. 
Oliver, Rev. P. 223 
Olivers, Thos., 95, 107 

Parkgate, 36, 51, 53, 108, 188 
Parry, Mr. James, Sen. and Jun., 

" Pear Tree " Preachers, 9 
Perronet, Rev. Edwd., 5 
"Pilgrims'" Inn, 65 
Porteus, Bp , '^30 
Preston on the Hill, 106 
Pritchard, Mr. Jonathan, 35, 36, 

46, 61, 112 

Rackery, 177, see also Williams 

Reece, Rev. Rd., 137, 195 
Rodda, Rd., 134, 228 
Rogers, Mrs. H. A., 124, 135 
Roberts, Robert, 64, 120 

Do. Joseph, 196 
Robinson, Mr. Collin, 202 
Ruthin, 176 

Scholfield, Jas., 41 
Seed, Rd., 98 
Sellers, Mr. John, 148 
Shaw, Mr. Geo., 26 

Do. John, g8 
Sim family, I. 
Simpson, Mr. C, 216 
Smith, Mr. S., of Tattenhall, I., 36 
Smith, Ann, 4 

Sunday School Work, Early, VII. 
Suter, Alexr., 182 
St. John Street Chapel, VIII. 
St. Martin's Ash, II., 56 

Tarvin, 4, 27 

Tattenhall, 13, 14, 36, 52, 56 

Taylor, Thos., 83 

Taxall, 107 

Tiverton, 12, 25 

Townley, Dr., 184 

Trinity Lane Chapel, V. 

Walker, Mr. G., the earlier, 171, 

Do. do. the later, first steward at 

St. John Street, his MS. History 

of Chester Methodism, passim 
Walsh, Rev. Thos., 42 
Warren, Dr., 194 
Wathew, Mr., 218 
Wem, 53 

West, Francis, 185 
Whitchurch, 108, 177 
Whitefield, Rev. G., 42 
Whitehead, Dr., 5 
Whitehouse, Mr. W. E., of B'm., 

213, 229, 255 
Wilcoxen, Mr. Jonathan, 119 
Williams, Mr. Ambrose, 198 
Williams family, of Rackery, 190 
Wirral, its early Methodism, 145 
Wooldridge, Mr., 61 
Wrexham, 16, 106, in, 177, 178 
Wrigley, F., 113 

Wesley, Rev. John, his visits to 
the neighbourhood : — # 

i 1749, Oct., to Alpraham, 6 

2 1751, April, do. ig 

3 1752, March, do. 20 

4 1752, June, the first to 

Chester, 31 

5 1752, July, 32 

6 1753, March, 34 

7 1756, August, 47 

8 1757, April, 47 

9 1759, April, 48 

10 1760, March, 48 

11 1760, August, 49 

12 1761, April, 52 

13 1762, March, 53 

14 1762, August, 54 

15 1764, July, 56 

16 1765, Spring, 69 

17 1765, August, 70 

18 1766, April, 72 

19 1768, April, 86 

20 1769, March, 97 

21 1770, March, 106 

22 1771, March, 108 

23 1772, March, 109 

24 1774, April, 112 

25 (?) 1775. 123 

26 1776, April, 123 

27 1777, April, 123 

28 1777, October, 123 

29 1779, April, 124 

30 1780, March, 125 

31 1781, April, 126 

32 1781, later, 127 

33 (?) I 7 8 3. April, 127 

34 1783, May, 128 

35 1784, April, 128 

36 1785, Spring, 130 

37 1785. J ul y> 130 

38 (?) 1786, April, 134 

39 1787, April, 135 

40 1787, July, 135 

41 1788, April, 141 

42 1789, July, 143 

43 1790, April, 149. 
Wesley, Rev. John, letters of: — 

To Jonathan Maskew, 38 

To Jonathan Pritchard, 39 

To (?) , 45 

To Jonathan Pritchard, 112 

To S. Bardsley, 124 

To Rev. Freeborn Garrettson,i45 

To Rd. Rodda, 226 

To Mrs. Gallatin, 270 

To Mr. W. Allwood, see App. 
Wesley, Rev. Charles, 27, 141 
Wesley, Mrs. John, 34